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Italian Sketches 






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{The rights of translation and of reproduction are reserved.} 


Several of the following sketches have already 
been published, and I owe to the courtesy of 
Messrs. Macmillan and Messrs. Longman the 
permission to reprint them.* 

Some will think my pictures of the Tuscan 
peasants flattered and highly coloured. I can only 
say that I have lived among them for eighteen 
years, and that nowhere does the golden rule," Do 
as you would be done by," hold good so much as 
in Italy. We have not changed a servant since we 
came to live here, and they take as much care of, 
and as much pride in all that belongs to " us," as 
they say, as if it was their own property. A noted 
ne'er-do-well of the little village near by, who had 
been in prison seventeen times for petty thefts, and 

* "Old Florence and Modern Tuscany," "The Dove of Holy 
Saturday," " Vintaging in Tuscany," "Oil-making in Tuscany," 
" The Baths of Casciana in July," " Tarentum," and " Leucaspide " 
— Macmillan 's Magazine. " A September Day in the Valley of the 
Arno" — English Illustrated Magazine. "Popular Songs of Tus- 
cany " — Eraser's Magazine. " Virgil and Agriculture in Tuscany " 
— Longman's Magazine. 


vi Preface. 

to whom I was helpful, came some time ago at 
nightfall, desiring to see the " Signora " on im- 
portant business. All Tuscans dearly love a small 
mystery, but I found that my friend really had 
grave tidings. 

11 Brozzi, Peretola, e Campi 
Son la peggio genia che Cristo stampi," 

(" Brozzi, Peretola, and Campi 
Are the worst lot ever made by Christ,") 

says the old proverb ; and the inhabitants of these 
villages are famous for their thieving propensities. 
My obligato (obliged one), as he calls himself, 
came to tell me that a raid was intended on all the 
henroosts of the country, and knowing that I valued 
my Cochins and Brahmas, wanted to warn me and 
the gamekeeper, adding that he should try and 
prevent them from paying us a visit. Next 
morning lamentation was general, for many had 
lost their fowls. I escaped, but we invested in two 
enormous Maremma sheep-dogs, whose fierceness 
is proverbial. 

I could tell other such stories ; for, as my mother 
says in her " Letters from Egypt," I " sit among 
the people," and do not " make myself big," a pro- 
ceeding an Italian resents as much as an Arab. 




Old Florence and Modern Tuscany ... ... i 

The Dove of Holy Saturday ... ... ... 25 

A September Day in the Valley of the Arno ... 35 

Popular Songs of Tuscany ... ... ... 53 

The Ghetto of Florence ... ... ... ... 87 

vlntaging in tuscany ... ... ... ... ioi 

Oil-making in Tuscany ... ... ... ... 113 

Virgil and Agriculture in Tuscany ... ... 125 

tommaso crudeli and the freemasons of florence 

IN 1733 137 

San Gimignano delle Belle Torre ... ... 153 

The Baths of Casciana in July ... ... 171 

La Gioconda ... ... ... ... ... 191 

Tarentum ... ... ... ... ... 219 

Leucaspide ... ... ... ... ... ... 241 


Old Florence and Modern Tuscany ... Frontispiece 

The Dove of Holy Saturday ... Tofacepage 25 

The Badia a Settimo ... ... ... „ 35 

Popular Songs of Tuscany ... ... ,, 53 

The Ghetto ... ... ... ... ,, $7 

The Vintage at the Tinaia ... ... „ 101 

Oil-Making in Tuscany ... ... ,, 113 

Virgil and Agriculture in Tuscany ... ,, 125 

The Municipal Palace, Poppi ... ... ,, 137 

San Gimignano ... ... ... ... ,, 153 

The Baths of Casciana ... ... „ 171 

La Gioconda ... ... ... ... ,, 191 

Mare Piccolo, Tarentum ... ... ,, 219 

Shepherd of Magna Gr^cia ... ... ,, 241 



" Florence within her ancient limit-mark, 
Which calls her still to matin prayers and noon, 
Was chaste and sober, and abode in peace. 
She had no amulet, no head-tires then, 
No purfled dames ; no zone, that caught the eye 
More than the person did. Time was not yet, 
When at his daughters' births the sire grew pale, 
For fear the age and dowry should exceed, 
On each side, just proportion. House was none, 
Void of its family ; nor yet had come 
Sardanapalus to exhibit feats 
Of chamber prowess. Montemalo yet 
O'er our suburban turret rose ; as much 
To be surpast in fall, as in its rising. 
I saw Bellincion Berti walk abroad 
In leathern girdle, and a clasp of bone ; 
And, with no artificial colouring on her cheeks, 
His lady leave the glass. The sons I saw 
Of Nerli, and of Vecchio, well content 
With unrobed jerkin ; and their good dames handling 
The spindle and the flax. Oh, happy they ! " 


Italian Sketches. 

Thus writes Dante, in the :f Paradise" about the sobriety 
and simplicity of dress and manners in Florence of his 
day ; and nearly a century later G. Villani writes : 

"The citizens of Florence lived soberly, on coarse 
viands and at small cost ; they were rude and unpolished 
in many customs and courtesies of life, and dressed 
themselves and their women in coarse cloth ; many wore 
plain leather, without cloth over it; bonnets on their 
heads; and all, boots on their feet. The Florentine 
women were without ornament; the better sort being 
content with a close gown of scarlet cloth of Ypres or of 
camlet, tied with a girdle in the ancient mode, and a 
mantle lined with fur, with a hood attached to be worn 
on the head. The common sort of women were clad in 
a coarse gown of cambrai in like fashion." 

Things appear to have changed soon after this, as the 
sage old Florentines drew up a series of sumptuary laws 
in 14 1 5, directed against the luxury and splendour of 
women's dress and of marriage festivals. They declared 
that such magnificence was opposed to all republican 
laws and usages, and only served to enervate and corrupt 
the people. If a citizen of Florence wished to give an 
entertainment in honour of a guest, he was obliged to 
obtain a permit from the Priors of Liberty, for which he 
paid ten golden florins, and had also to swear that such 
splendour was only exhibited for the honour and glory of 
the city. Whoever transgressed this law was fined 

Old Florence and Modern Tuscany. 3 

twenty-five golden florins. It was considered shameful 
to have much plate ; nearly all household implements 
were of brass, now and then beautified by having the 
arms of the family in enamel upon them. These sump- 
tuary laws were not confined to Florence. The town of 
Pistoja enacted similar ones in 1322 ; Perugia in 1333. 
Phillipe le Bel promulgated sumptuary laws in France 
in 13 10; Charles IX. in 1575; and Louis XIII. in 
1 6 14; but with no greater success than the worthy old 

Pandolfini, in his curious book, " Del Governo della 
Famiglia," inveighs against the Florentine custom of 
painting the face. In his counsels to his young wife, 
Giovanna degli Strozzi, he says : — 

"Avoid all those false appearances by which dishonest 
and bad women try to allure men, thinking with oint- 
ments, white lead and paint, with lascivious and immoral 
dress, to please men better than when adorned with 
simplicity and true honesty. Not only is this reprehen- 
sible, but it is most unwholesome to corrupt the face with 
lime, poisons, and so-called washes. See, oh, my wife, 
how fresh and well-looking are all the women of this 
house ! This is because they use only water from the 
well as an ointment ; do thou likewise, and do not plaster 
and whiten thy face, thinking to appear more beautiful in 
my eyes. Thou art fresh and of a fine colour j think not 
to please me by cheatery and showing thyself to me as 

Italian Sketches. 

thou art not, because I am not to be deceived; I see thee 
at all hours, and well I know how thou art without paint." 

The Florentine ladies appear to have held their own 
against all these attempts to convert them to a simpler 
mode of life. Sachetti gives an amusing instance of their 
ready wit, while he was Prior of the Republic. A new 
judge, Amerigo degli Amerighi, came from Pesaro, and 
was specially ordered to see that the sumptuary laws were 
obeyed ; he fell into disgrace for doing too little, and his 
defence is as follows : — 

" My masters, I have worked all my life at the study of 
law, and now that I thought I knew something I find I 
know nothing ; for trying to discover the forbidden orna- 
ments worn by your women, according to the orders you 
gave me, I have not found in any law-book arguments 
such as they give. I will cite you some. I met a woman 
with a border, all curiously ornamented and slashed, 
turned over her hood ; the notary said to her, ' Give me 
your name, for you have an embroidered border.' The 
good woman takes off the border, which was attached to 
her hood with a pin, and holding it in her hand, replies 
that it is a garland. There are others who wear many 
buttons down the front of their dresses ; I say to one, 
' You may not wear those buttons/ and she answers,  Yes, 
sir, I can, for these are not buttons, but coppelle, and if 
you do not believe me, see, they have no haft, and there 
are no buttonholes.' The notary goes up to a third, who 

Old Florence and Modern Tuscany. 5 

was wearing ermine, and says, 'How can you excuse 
yourself, you are wearing ermine ? ' and begins to write the 
accusation. The woman replies, ' No, do not write, for 
this is not ermine, but lattizzo (fur of any young sucking 
animal).' The notary asked, ' And what is this lattizzo ? ' 
And the woman's answer was, ' The man is a fool ! ' " 

The widows seem to have given less trouble ; but they 
always took care that their dresses should be well cut 
and fit perfectly. 

Philosophers, of course, wrote treatises on political 
economy, and poets satirized the different fashions of 
their times. Thus, in " Lodovico Adimari," we read : — 

" The high-born dame now plasters all her cheeks 
With paint by shovelfuls, and in curled rings 
Or tortuous tresses twines her hair, and seeks 
To shave with splintered glass the down that springs 
On her smooth face and soft skin, till they seem 
The fairest, tenderest of all tender things : 
Rouge and vermilion make her red lips beam 
Like rubies burning on the brow divine 
Of heaven-descended Iris : jewels gleam 
About her breasts, embroidered on the shrine 
Of satins, silks, and velvets : like the snails, 
A house in one dress on her back she trails." * 

Cennino Cennini, a painter and pupil of Agnolo Gaddi, 
the godson of Giotto, says, in his " Treatise on Painting " : 

" It might be for the service of young ladies, more 
especially those of Tuscany, to mention some colours 
* Translated by Mr. J. A. Symonds. 

Italian Sketches. 

which they think highly of, and use for beautifying them- 
selves J and also certain washes. But as those of Padua 
do not use such things, and I do not wish to make 
myself obnoxious to them, or to incur the displeasure of 
God and of Our Lady, so I shall say no more on this 
subject. But," he continues, " if thou desirest to preserve 
thy complexion for a long time, I advise thee to wash 
thyself with water from fountains, rivers, or wells. I warn 
thee that if thou usest cosmetics thy face will become 
hideous and thy teeth black ; thou wilt be old before 
thy time, and the ugliest object possible. This is quite 
enough to say on this subject." 

Cennini seems, notwithstanding, to have been em- 
ployed to paint people's faces, if we may judge from the 
following passage in the same work : — 

" Sometimes you may be obliged to paint or dye flesh, 
faces of men and women in particular. You can mix 
your colours with yolk of egg ; or should you wish to 
make them more brilliant, with oil, or liquid varnish, the 
strongest of all temperas. Do you want to remove the 
colours or tempera from the face ? Take yolk of egg and 
rub it, a little at a time, with your hand on the face. 
Then take clean water, in which bran has been boiled, 
and wash the face ; then more of the yolk of egg, and 
again rub the face with it ; and again wash with warm 
water. Repeat this many times until the face returns 
to its original colour." 

Old Florence and Modern Tuscany. 7 

The sumptuary laws cited by the Osservatore Fioren- 
tino are as follow : — 

" 1 st. It is forbidden for any unmarried woman to 
wear pearls or precious stones, and the married dames 
may only wear ornaments to the value of forty golden 
florins at any one time. 

u 2nd. In the week preceding a wedding, neither bride 
nor bridegroom may ask to dinner or supper more than 
four persons not appertaining to the house. 

" 3rd. The brides who desire to go to church on horse- 
back may do so, but are not to be accompanied by more 
than six women attendants. 

" 4th. On the marriage day, only sixteen women may 
dine in the bridegroom's house, six of the bride's family 
and ten of the bridegroom's, besides his mother, his 
sisters, and his aunts. 

"5 th. There may only be ten men of the family, and 
eight friends ; boys under fourteen do not count. 

" 6th. During the repast, only three musicians and 
singers are to be allowed. 

" 7th. The dinner or supper may not consist of more 
than three solid dishes, but confectionery and fruit ad 

" 8th. The bride and bridegroom are allowed to invite 
two hundred people to witness the signing of the contract 
before the celebration of the marriage." 

These laws, however, appear to have been of little use, 

Italian Sketches. 

to judge by the representation of the marriage procession 
of Boccaccio degli Adimari on the cassone, or marriage- 
chest, the painted front of which is now in the Academia 
delle Belle Arte, at Florence. Men and women mag- 
nificently clad are walking hand in hand, under a canopy 
of red and white damask, supported by poles, and 
stretched from the lovely little Loggia del Bigallo, 
past Lorenzo Ghiberti's famous doors of the baptistry of 
San Giovanni, to the corner of Via de' Martelli. The 
trumpeters of the Republic sit on the steps of the 
Loggia, blowing their golden trumpets ornamented with 
square flags, on which is emblazoned the lily of the city 
of Florence. Pages in gorgeous clothes, and carrying 
gold and silver vases on their heads, are passing in and 
out of one of the Adimari palaces. A man behind the 
musicians holds a flask of wine in his hand, just the 
same flask as one sees now in daily use in Tuscany. The 
ladies have head-dresses like large turbans ; one is made 
of peacock's feathers, and all are sparkling with jewels. 

Funerals were also a great source of show and splen- 
dour in those days, and their cost increased rapidly. In 
1340 the funeral of Gherardo Baroncelli cost only two 
hundred golden florins, and about the same time that of 
Giotto Peruzzi five hundred; whereas, in 1377, the ex- 
penses for the burial of Monaldo Alberti di Messer 
Niccolaio d'Jacopo degli Alberti amounted to three 
thousand golden florins, nearly five thousand pounds. 

Old Florence and Modern Tuscany, g 

The following details of this magnificent affair, from 
the manuscript of Monaldi, may interest the curious 
reader : — 

" Monaldo Alberti di Messer Niccolaio d'Jacopo degli 
Alberti, died on the 7th of August, 1377 ; he passed for 
the richest man, as regards money, in the country. He 
was buried on the 8th of August, in Santa Croce, with 
great honour of torches and wax candles. The funeral 
car was of red damask, and he was dressed in the same 
red damask, in cloth and in cloth of gold. There were 
eight horses, one decked with the arms of the people, 
because he was a cavalier of the people ; one with the 
arms of the Guelphs, because he was one of their 
captains j two horses were covered with big banners, on 
which were emblazoned the Alberti arms ; one horse 
had a pennant, and a casque and sword and spurs of 
gold, and on the casque was a damsel with two wings ; 
another horse was covered with scarlet, and his rider 
had a thick mantle of fur, lined ; another horse was 
undraped, and his rider wore a violet cloak lined with 
dark fur. 

" When the body was removed from the arcade of the 
house, there was a sermon; seventy-two torches sur- 
rounded the car, that is to say, sixty belonged to the 
house, and twelve to the Guelph party. A large cata- 
falque was all furnished with torches of a pound weight ; 
and the whole church, and the chief chapels towards the 

io Italian Sketches. 

centre of the church, were full of small torches of half a 
pound weight, often interspersed with those of one pound. 
All the relations, and those of close parentage with the 
house of Alberti, were dressed in blood-red ; and all the 
women who belonged to them, or had entered the family 
by marriage, wore the same colour. Many other families 
were in black. A great quantity of money was there to 
give away for God, etc. Never had been seen such 
honours. This funeral cost something like three thousand 
golden florins." 

The Medici made no attempt to control this splen- 
dour ; indeed, one of Lorenzo the Magnificent's favourite 
sayings was, "Pane e feste tengon il popol quieto" (Bread 
and shows keep the people quiet). Cosmo I. had a 
passion for jousts and games of all sorts; ballets on 
horseback and masquerades ; these were generally held 
in the Piazza Sta. Croce. The masquerade, in 1 615, to 
celebrate the arrival of Ubaldo della Rovere, Prince of 
Urbino, has been engraved by Jacques Callot, and was 
called the War of Love. First came the chariot of Love, 
surrounded with clouds, which opened showing Love and 
his court. Then came the car of Mount Parnassus with 
the Muses, Paladins, and famous men of letters. The 
third was the chariot of the Sun, with the twelve signs 
of the zodiac, the serpent of Egypt, the months and 
seasons ; this chariot was surrounded by eight Ethiopian 
giants. The car of Thetis closed the procession, with 

Old Florence and Modern Tuscany, ii 

Sirens, Nereids, and Tritons, and eight giant Neptunes, 
to represent the principal seas of the world. 

Ferdinand II. also delighted in these shows, and 
several held during his reign have been engraved by 
Stefano della Bella and Jacques Callot. 

Princess Violante of Bavaria, who came, in 1689, to 
marry Ferdinand, son of Cosmo III., was received 
with great splendour. She entered Florence by the 
Porta San Gallo, where a chapel had been erected on 
purpose to crown her as she crossed the threshold of 
the city. The princess then seated herself on a jewelled 
throne, and was carried into the town under a canopy 
borne by a number of youths, splendidly dressed, and 
chosen for their beauty and high birth. After a solemn 
thanksgiving in the cathedral, she was escorted to the 
Pitti Palace by the senate and the chief people of the 
city. The carnival feasts that year were more mag- 
nificent than usual in her honour. 

T. Rinnucini, writing to a friend in the beginning of 
the seventeenth century, gives the following quaint 
account of a wedding in his own family : — 

" When the alliance was arranged, we went in person 
to all our near relatives, and sent servants to those of 
remoter kin, to give notice of the day on which the bride 
would leave our house in her bridal attire ; so that all 
relations down to the third degree might accompany her 
to mass. At the house door, we found a company of 

12 Italian Sketches. 

youths, the seraglio, as we say, who complimented my 
niece, and made as though they would not allow her to 
quit the house until she bestowed on them rings or 
clasps, or some such trinkets. When she had, with 
infinite grace, given the usual presents, the spokesman 
of the party, who was the youngest, and of high family, 
waited on the bride, and served her as far as the church 
door, giving her his arm. After the marriage, we had a 
grand banquet, with all the relations on both sides, and 
the youths of the seraglio, who, in truth, have a right to 
be present at the feast." 

In other descriptions of marriages about the same time, 
we read that during the banquet a messenger sought 
audience of the bride, and presented her with a basket 
of flowers, or a pair of scented gloves sent by the seraglio, 
together with the rings, clasps, or other ornaments she 
had given them on leaving her father's house. The 
bridegroom, according to his means, gave the messenger 
thirty, forty, fifty, or even, if very rich, a hundred scudi, 
which the youths spent in a great feast to their com- 
panions and friends, in a masquerade, or some such 

The marriage-ring was given on another day, when 
there was a feast of white confectionery, followed by 
dancing, if the size of the house permitted it. Otherwise 
the company played at giule, a game of cards no longer 
known ; the name being derived, says Salvini, from the 

Old Florence and Modern Tuscany. 13 

coin called gtulio, worth fifty-six centimes, which was 
placed in a plate in the middle of the table as the stake. 

At the beginning of the feast, the names of the guests 
were read out according to their different degrees of 
parentage, so that all might find their places without 

The bride's dower was carried in procession to the 
bridegroom's house, in the cassoni, or marriage-chests, 
which varied in splendour according to the riches of the 
family. Some were of carved wood, some inlaid, others 
covered with velvet ornamented with richly gilt ironwork, 
and the finest of all were painted, often by famous 
artists, with the deeds of the ancestors of the family. 
The great luxury consisted in fine linen ; " twenty dozen 
of everything," was the rule in those days, which is still 
adhered to among old-fashioned people in Tuscany. 

It was in such a marriage-chest that the beautiful 
Ginevra dei Benci, whose portrait exists in the fresco 
by Ghirlandajo in Sta. Maria Novella, hid while playing 
hide and seek the evening before her marriage. The 
cassone was of carved wood, and the heavy lid closed 
upon her, snapping the lock fast. All search for her 
was vain, and the old tale says that her fair fame 
suffered at the hands of malicious women, jealous of her 
exceeding beauty. Years afterwards, when the chest 
was forced open, the remains of the lovely Ginevra were 
found, still, it is said, preserving traces of beauty, and 

u Italian Sketches. 

with the peculiar scent she used still lingering about her 
long, fair hair; in her right hand she grasped the jewel 
her bridegroom had given her to fasten the front of her 
gown. In Florence, the bella Ginevra is still talked 
about among the common people as the ideal type of 
woman's beauty. 

All these old usages have vanished now among the 
gentlefolk of Florence, but some yet linger among the 
contadini, or peasantry, who are essentially conservative, 
and opposed to change. Sir Henry Maine has de- 
scribed * a state of things among the South Slavonians 
and Rajpoots which is curiously like the life of the 
Tuscan contadino of the present day. 

The house community of the South Slavonians de- 
spotically ruled by the paterfamilias; and the house- 
mother, who governs the women of the family, though 
always subordinate to the house-chief, is almost a 
counterpart of the primitive custom still prevailing in 
Tuscany, and doubtless existing in the days of the 
gallant youths and fair ladies we have mentioned above. 

In all dealings of the contadini with strangers the 
capoccio, or head-man, represents the family, and his word 
or signature binds them all collectively. He administers 
the family affairs, and arranges what work is to be done 
during the day, and who is to do it. No member of the 
family can marry without his consent, ratified by that of 

* In the Nineteenth Century, December, 1877. 

Old Florence and Modern Tuscany. 15 

the padrone, or landlord, and he keeps the common 
purse. On Saturday night, the men state their wants to 
him, and he decides whether they are reasonable, and, 
above all, whether the family finances permit their real- 
ization. The rule of the capoccio is extremely despotic, 
for I have known the case of an old man, the uncle of 
the head-man, being kept for some time without his 
weekly pittance for buying snuff as a punishment for 
disobeying an order. 

The dignity of capoccio is hereditary and generally goes 
to the eldest son, although it happens that he may be 
passed over, and an uncle or a younger brother chosen to 
fill the position, by the padrone, to whom the capoccio is 
responsible for the behaviour of the rest of the family. 
Should he fall hopelessly ill, the family inform the- 
padrone in an indirect way, who suggests to the head- 
man that he should abdicate; but in this case, and 
indeed whenever it is practicable, the choice of the 
successor is left to the capoccio himself, in order to 
maintain the dignity of the position. 

The massaia, or house-mother, is generally one of the 
oldest women in the house; often the mother or the 
wife of the head-man, but occasionally of more distant 
kin. She retains the post until her death, and rules over 
the women, keeping the purse for the smaller house 
expenses, such as linen, clothes for the women, pepper, 
salt, and white rolls for the small children. All these 

16 Italian Sketches. 

are bought with the proceeds of the work of the women 
themselves, which includes the care of the silkworms, of 
the poultry, if they are permitted by the landlord to keep 
fowls, and the straw-plaiting, which is universal in the 
lower Val d'Arno. The girls, from the age of fourteen, 
are allowed a certain time every day to work for their 
dowry, generally in the evening. 

A bride brings into her husband's house a bed, some 
linen, a cassone, her personal clothes, and a vezzo, a 
necklace of several strings of irregular pearls, costing 
from five to a hundred pounds, according to the wealth 
of her father, or the amount she has been able to earn. 
The vezzo always represents half the dowry, and those 
who are too poor to buy pearls get a necklace of dark- 
red coral. 

After a due course of courtship — during which the 
young man visits his innamorata every Saturday evening 
and on holidays, bringing her a flower, generally a 
carnation, or a rose in the summer months, and im- 
provising (if he can) terze or ottave rhymes in her honour, 
which he sings as he nears the house — the capoccio dons 
his best clothes, and goes in state to ask the hand of 
the girl for his son, brother, nephew, or cousin, as it may 
be. When the affair is settled, after much talking and 
gesticulation, like everything else in Tuscany, a stimaiort 
or savio, an appraiser or wise-man, is called in, who 
draws up an account of all the bride's possessions. This 

Old Florence and Modern Tuscany. 17 

paper, duly signed and sealed, is consigned to the 
capoccio of the bridegroom's house, who keeps it care- 
fully, as should the young man die without leaving 
.children, the wife has a right to the value of all she 
brought into her husband's house. If there are children, 
the capoccio is the sole guardian, and he administers 
their property for them, unless the mother has reason 
to think him harsh or unfaithful, when she may call for 
a consiglio di famiglia, or family council, who name two 
or more administrators. 

A widow may elect to remain in her adopted family 
and look after her children, who by law belong to the 
representative of their father; or she can leave her 
children and return to her own people if they are able 
and willing to receive her, which is not often the case, as 
in Tuscany the contadini marry their children by rotation, 
so that often the younger sons or daughters have to wait 
for years, until the elder are settled in life. It would be 
an unheard-of thing for a younger daughter to marry 
before her elder sister. 

Second marriages of widows with children are rare, 
as the woman would seldom be allowed to bring her 
children by the first husband into the house, and the folk- 
songs and proverbs are condemnatory of the practice : — 

Quando la capra ha passato il poggiolo non si ricorda 
piu del figliuolo (When the she-goat has crossed the 
hillock, she forgets her young). 


1 8 Italian Sketches. 

Dio ti guardi da donna due volte maritate (God pre- 
serve thee from a twice-married woman). 

Quando si maritan vedove, il Benedetto va tutto il giorno 
per casa (When widows marry, the dear departed is all 
day long about the house). 

" La vedovella quando sta'n del letto, 
Colle lagrime bagna le lenzuola ; 
E si rivolta da quel altro verso : 
Accanto ci si trova la figliola. 
O figlia mia, se tu non fossi nata, 
Al mondo mi sarei rimaritata." 

(The widow lying in her bed, 

With tears bedews the sheets ; 

And turns round to the other side, 

Where her daughter is. 

Oh, my daughter, dear, if thou hadst not been born, 

I should have found another husband in this world.) 

After seven years of age, the children are by law 
allowed to choose with whom they will live, and I have 
known some cases of children leaving their mother and 
coming of their own accord to their uncle or grandfather, 
begging to be taken into the paternal house. 

When a marriage is settled, the family of the bride 
invites the capoccio and the bridegroom to dinner, to 
meet all her relations. This is called the impalmamento, 
and many toasts are drunk to the health of the young 
couple. It is considered highly improper for the bride 
to visit her future home, and even in her walks she takes 
care to avoid it. The other members of her family may 

Old Florence and Modern Tuscany. 19 

visit it, but she would be dishonoured for ever if she 
went near her bridegroom's house. 

The peasantry now almost universally observe the new 
law of civil marriage, but they still regard it as a mere 
form, and look on the religious ceremony as'the important 
thing. The civil marriage is often celebrated three or 
four days before the religious service, and the girl goes 
quietly home to her father's house until the day fixed for 
the latter. 

In some parts of the Val d'Arno the custom of bein 
married after sundown prevails, and the bride wears a 
black dress, with a white bonnet or cap, and white gloves, 
while, even in winter, a fan is an indispensable adjunct 
to her costume. Bridesmaids are unknown, as no un- 
married girl is ever present at a marriage. The bride is 
attended to church by her father and mother, and her male 
and married female relations. The bridegroom's mother, 
or the massaia of his house, stays at home to welcome her 
new daughter, whom she meets on the threshold of the 
house with il bacio di benvenuto (the kiss of welcome). 
At the dinner or supper, as the case may be, everybody 
in turn makes a brindisi to the young couple. The 
female relations of the bride do not go to this dinner, 
and she makes up a basket of eatables to send home by 
one of the men. 

During the first week of her marriage, the bride is ex- 
pected to be up before any one else, to light the fire and 

Italian Sketches. 

prepare coffee for the men before they go into the fields, 
and to cook the hot meal either at noon or in the even- 
ing, to show that she is a good housewife. 

On the first Sunday or holiday following the wedding, 
the mother and sisters of the bride come to see her, and 
the following week, some of the family of the bridegroom 
accompany him and his young wife to her old home, 
where they dine ; and this closes the festivities. 

It occasionally happens that a family of peasants, 
living in the same house and originally nearly related, 
in the lapse of years lose relationship so completely that 
they might intermarry, but such a thing very rarely 
happens. I know a family of twenty-seven who are three 
distinct branches of the same family, but whose relation- 
ship dates back more than a hundred years. They, 
however, regard each other as of one family, and im- 
plicitly obey the capoccio, who is a comparatively young 

The mezzeria or metayer system generally prevailing in 
Tuscany induces a patriarchal feeling between landlord 
and peasant, which is very pleasant to see, but is not 
conducive to agricultural progress, or a good thing for 
the landlord. He pays all the taxes to Government, 
which are enormous ; he provides the house rent free, and 
keeps it in repair; he buys the oxen, cows, and horses, 
bearing half the loss if they die, and of course getting 
half the profit when they are sold. The peasant gives his 

Old Florence and Modern Tuscany. 21 

labour, the landlord gives the land and the capital, and 
the proceeds are divided between them. In bad years, 
the landlord advances corn to his peasants, which they 
repay when they can, in wine, oil, beans, etc. Where 
there is a large family of young children, the peasant 
sometimes accumulates a load of debt that cripples him 
for years ; in rare instances the landlord turns him out at 
six months' notice, and puts another family on the farm ; 
but, as a rule, the peasants remain for generations on the 
same property, and always talk of themselves as the gente 
(people) of their landlord. 

The English farmer does not exist in Tuscany ; none 
of the peasants have enough capital to lease land, and if 
they had they would not do it, being so much better off 
under the mezzeria. If a peasant leased a farm, he 
would probably starve in a bad season, instead of tiding 
it over as he now does by the padrone's help. 

The small proprietors are gradually disappearing in 
Tuscany ; they cannot pay the enormous taxes and live. 
One never takes up a newspaper without seeing a list of 
small proprietors whose poderi are for sale, by order of 
the esattore or tax-gatherer. The Tuscans are a gentle 
and long-suffering people, but such a condition of things 
produces a vast amount of discontent and hatred of the 
Government, and destroys a valuable class of trustworthy, 
orderly citizens. 

When a contadino is sent away, he occasionally finds a 

22 Italian- Sketches. 

new poderi, but most commonly sinks in the social scale, 
and becomes a bracciante or day labourer, when his lot 
is miserable enough. The usual wage in Tuscany is one 
franc, twelve centimes, about elevenpence a day. The 
day's work begins at sunrise and lasts till sunset, with 
half-an-hour's rest for breakfast at eight in the morning 
and one hour for lunch at midday. In the great heat of 
summer the midday rest is prolonged, and the men come 
earlier and go away later from their work. When the 
weather is bad they are days without employment j and 
where there are many small children, the family is often 
at starvation point. The women in the lower Val 
d'Arno are universally occupied in straw plaiting, and if 
very expert can, in exceptional years, and for a short 
time, gain as much as tenpence a day. But fashion is 
always changing and new plaits have to be learned, so 
that the average gain rarely exceeds twenty centimes, or 
twopence a day. When the Japanese rush hats came 
into fashion, there was very great misery among all the 
poor plaiters, as Leghorn straw hats were almost un- 

Going out to service is looked upon as a degradation 
among the Tuscan peasantry, and when you find a 
woman of that class in service she is certain to be either 
a childless widow, a burden on her own family and un- 
kindly treated by the relatives of her late husband, or a 
girl who has not been allowed to marry as she wished. 

Old Florence and Modern Tuscany. 23 

The contadino almost invariably chooses a wife in his 
own class, generally from a neighbouring family. 
Favourite proverbs among the peasants are — 

Donne e buoi de' paesi tuoi (Women and oxen from 
thine own country). Or, 

Chi di lontano si va a maritare, sara ingannato vuol 
ingannare (He who seeks a wife from a distance will be 
deceived, or attempts deception). 

You will seldom find a peasant above thirty who can 
write and read, though some have learnt to sign their 
names in a sort of hieroglyph. The rising generation 
are being instructed in a desultory manner, and are 
wonderfully quick at learning. Every man in the army 
is forced to learn under penalty of being kept in the 
ranks until he can read, write, and cipher decently well ; 
so that one may say that the army is one vast school. 
The conscription is, however, a very heavy tax, par- 
ticularly on the agricultural population, and entails great 
misery. The loss, for three years, of the son, who in 
many cases is the chief bread-winner for his younger 
brothers and sisters, or for an invalid father, often 
reduces the family to beggary. I need not add that the 
loss to the country is enormous. 

On the other hand, there is no doubt that the army is 
the great, and probably the only, method of gradually 
fusing the different Italian races — I had almost said 
nationalities. Since the Middle Ages, the hatred between 

24 Italian Sketches. 

not only the different provinces, but between the towns 
and even the smallest villages, has always existed, and 
is still extremely strong. An Italian seldom, if ever, in 
Italy at least, talks, of himself as an Italian. He is a 
Neapolitan, a Tuscan, a Piedmontese, a Roman, or 
a Lombard; and each province thinks that it has the 
monopoly of honesty, truth, and exemption from crime. 
All this will, no doubt, pass when education has had 
time to influence the lower classes; and then also the 
quaint manners and customs I have attempted to 
describe will disappear, like the costume of the peasants, 
which now lingers on only in the meridional provinces. 



Saturday in .Holy Week is a great holiday for the 
Florentines, and still more for the contadini, or peasants, 
of all the country round. They come trooping into the 
city, all dressed in their holiday clothes, from miles and 
miles away. The streets are crowded with the easy- 
going, good-natured, laughter-loving people, who have 
jokes and proverbs on the tips of their tongues and 
know full well how to apply them. In old days, spring 
and summer clothes were always bought on this day, and 
the shops were decked out displaying their most tempting 
wares. This custom is a thing of the past, but the 
colombina or dove, still speeds her fiery course down the 
centre of the old cathedral, and sets fire to the wonder- 
ful erection outside the great front door, of squibs, 
crackers, and Catherine wheels which are piled up on an 
old triumphal chariot, with four clumsy wheels, on the body 
of which traces of painting may yet be discerned. The 
dove will fly at midday, but by ten o'clock the environs 
of the beautiful old marble Duomo are crowded, and 
from every quarter a never-ceasing stream of people 

26 Italian Sketches. 

pours in that direction. Many are the conjectures and 
the hopes that the dove may fly straight and well, as that 
indicates a good harvest, an abundant vintage, and a 
fine crop of olives. There is a tradition thougruthat in 
the days of Napoleon I. the Archbishop of Florence and 
his clergy were threatened with heavy pains and penalties 
if the dove did not fly well, and that she sped like 
lightning down the cord in the church, and yet the crops 
failed. "Ma chi sa," said my informant, " se e vero ? 
forse no" (But who knows if this be true? perhaps 

By dint of patience and good humour we at last got 
into the Duomo, which bore quite a changed aspect ; 
every corner being crowded with people, save a narrow 
line down the centre, from the front door to the high 
altar, up which the archbishop, attended by all his 
clergy, was to pass, carrying the sacred fire. To get a 
chair was a labour of extreme difficulty, and involved an 
amount of diplomacy impossible to any but a Florentine. 
The possessor of the chairs was captured, promised 
many things, and disappeared in an unaccountable 
manner round the huge pillars. He then reappeared, 
bearing a pile of chairs, but the crowd separated him 
from us, and his chairs were seized upon by other 
applicants. After nine or ten frantic efforts, we got our 
chairs, much to the amusement of an old contadino 
and his wife, who, with various small grandchildren, 

The Dove of Holy Saturday. 27 

had come to see the colombina. The old man had a 
wrinkled, expressive face, with very bright, acute eyes 
and iron-grey hair, much such a face as Massacio loved 
to paint. He looked at us well, and then said in verna : 
cular Tuscan, " Chi ha pazienza ha i tordi grassi a un 
quattrin Vuno" (He who has patience gets the fat 
thrushes at a farthing apiece). 

We were so amused at his apt quotation of an old 
proverb that we made great friends, and took up his 
grandchildren on one of our chairs to see the show. The 
old woman was full of compliments and fears lest the 
children should be troublesome, but old Carnesecchi, as 
he told us his name was, had quite the old republican 
Florentine manners, respectful and civil, but perfectly self- 
possessed, and valuing his own personality. He invited 
us to come up to his podere, or farm, near Settignano, 
close to Michel Angelo's house, where, he said, laughing, 
the air is so sottile, so refined, that all the people are 
geniuses, only the world in general is not disposed to 
think so. 

A stir in the crowd now showed that the Archbishop 
was coming out of the baptistry of San Giovanni, 
opposite the cathedral, and all heads turned towards the 
main door, where we soon saw the great white flag with 
the red cross, the flag of the people of Florence, come 
waving in, followed by a long line of white-robed 
choristers singing. Other flags followed, then the 

28 Italian Sketches. 

canons of the cathedral in their picturesque long robes 
of dark purple, with white fur hoods, and lastly the 
stately and handsome Archbishop, with a jewelled mitre 
sparkling on his head, and a pastorale in his hand, all 
chiselled and set with precious stones, made by one of 
the famous old artificers of the fourteenth century. The 
Archbishop Limberti, who died of apoplexy soon after 
this, at the early age of forty-three, was the son of a 
peasant near Prato ; he was handsome and exceedingly 
dignified in manner, a good scholar, and spoke elegant 
Italian ; beloved and respected by all parties, he filled a 
difficult post with great ability. Tall, spare, and erect, 
he came slowly up the centre of the church, blessing the 
people to the right and the left, as they bowed low before 
him. When he had passed, they talked with pride of 
our Archbishop, and many stories of his charity and 
kindness were told in the crowd. 

Mass was now said at the high altar, but every one's 
attention seemed to be concentrated on an unsightly 
high white post close to the marble balustrade which 
surrounds the altar. To this post was fixed a cord, 
which, suspended in mid-air far above the heads of the 
people, disappeared out of the great front door, and was 
fastened to the chariot outside the Duomo. A small 
white speck was seen on the cord, fastened to the pillar, 
which we were informed was the famous dove. When 
the Gloria had been sung, a man went up a ladder with 

The Dove of Holy Saturday. 29 

a lighted taper, which he applied to the dove. There 
was a great spitting and hissing, and all at once she shot 
forward down the cord, a streak of fire and sparks. 
There was a stir and hum in the crowd, and a few little 
screams from some of the women ; the dove vanished out 
of the door, and then there was a series of explosions 
from outside, while the dove returned as fast as she had 
gone, and went back to the pillar of wood, where she 
remained still fizzing for a few seconds. 

Then all the bells of Florence, which had been silent 
since twelve o'clock on Thursday, began to ring merry 
chimes, and the great organ pealed out a triumphal 
melody. We made our way out of the Duomo as fast as 
we could, and were in time to see the last of the fire- 
works on the chariot; they made a tremendous noise, 
but as the sun shone brightly, there was not much to 
see. The fireworks were piled up some twenty feet high, 
and arranged in such a manner that only half of them 
go off in front of the Duomo, the other half being 
reserved for the corner of Borgo degli Albizzi, where the 
house of the Pazzi family is situated, in whose honour 
this custom was originally instituted. When all the 
squibs and crackers were finished, four magnificent white 
oxen, gaily decked with ribbons, were harnessed to the 
car, which moved off slowly with many creaks and 
groans round the south side of the cathedral towards the 
Via del Proconsolo. The crowd was immense, so we 

30 Italian Sketches. 

took some short cuts down the tortuous narrow streets 
in this old part of Florence, each of which has some 
passionate love-story or some dark tale of blood attached 
to it, and took up a favourable position opposite the 
entrance to the street of Borgo degli Albizzi, which is 
too narrow to admit the car. 

The four white oxen were unharnessed and taken 
away, and a cord being put from the door of the Pazzi 
Palace to the car, another dove again flew to the fire- 
works, and the popping and fizzing was renewed, to the 
intense delight of the crowd. 

The dove had flown swiftly and well this year, so the 
contadini returned home joyfully, spreading the glad 
tidings as they went — "La colombina e andato bene''' (The 
dove has flown well). 

This ceremony is connected with the old and noble 
family of Pazzi, whose ancestor, Pazzino de' Pazzi, so 
says the tradition, was the first to scale the walls of 
Jerusalem and plant the Christian flag. Godfrey de 
Bouillon, to recompense such prowess, crowned him 
with a mural crown, gave him his own armorial bear- 
ings, five crosses and two dolphins, and bestowed on 
him three stones, supposed to have come from the Holy 
Sepulchre. Gamurrini mentions that Pazzino de' Pazzi 
made a triumphant entry into Florence like a conqueror, 
in a magnificent chariot, and with a gallant company of 
youths around to do him honour. 

The Dove of Holy Saturday. 31 

The three stones were deposited in the church of 
St. Biagio, whence they were removed to Santi Apostoli. 
On the morning of Holy Saturday, the Archbishop, 
attended by all his clergy, goes to the church of Santi 
Apostoli and strikes fire from these stones. He then 
lights a taper, which is carried in procession to the 
Baptistry, and then to the Duomo, where the fire is 
blessed, and the devout light candles at it. 

Old records contain no mention of a triumphal entry 
of any Pazzi, or of a mural crown, and R. Malespina and 
Monsignor Borghini both agree that the Count of Bari 
gave the above-mentioned armorial bearings to the Pazzi 
in 1265. Travellers, too, say that the three stones are 
of quite a different nature from that of the Holy Sepul- 
chre. They were probably collected on the Mount of 
Olives by some devout pilgrim of the Pazzi family, who 
brought them home as relics, and in process of time 
they have gained the reputation of being portions of the 
Holy Sepulchre. 

The triumphal entry of Pazzino de' Pazzi into 
Florence, and his supposed progress from the sea-coast 
to his native city, were favourite subjects with the old 
painters, chiefly for cassone or wedding-chests. I have 
seen several, good, bad, and indifferent. One of the 
finest is by Benozzo Gozzoli; Pazzino de' Pazzi is 
seated in a magnificent gold chariot, with a golden 
canopy over his head, drawn by two horses, whose 

32 Italian Sketches. 

trappings sweep the ground. He is dressed in armour, 
and a tabard of cloth of gold trimmed with fur ; on his 
head is a kind of turban, surmounted by a crown. 
Round his chariot are crowds of splendidly dressed 
youths on horseback, and behind come a troop of men 
in armour, and another magnificent car with ladies in it ; 
their dresses are of gold brocade and embroidered stuffs, 
and long veils hang down from their curious head- 
dresses. One has a turban made of peacock's feathers. 

In front of the chariot of Pazzino de' Pazzi is another 
car, bearing a gilt globe, and on the globe stands a 
winged golden figure fiddling; round this chariot are 
trumpeters, from whose long golden trumpets hang 
square dark-blue flags, on which are emblazoned flames. 
The procession is opened by a square chariot, bearing an 
enormous two-handled jar, with two large wings ; out 
of the mouth of the jar issue flames — the sacred fire 
which Pazzi brought from Jerusalem. This is sur- 
rounded by pages on splendidly caparisoned horses, 
and groups of men in Eastern dress. The background 
is a walled city with many towers, and a lovely landscape 
with a river winding through it. People are hawking and 
hunting in the far distance. 

Giovanni Villani, mentioning the claims of the Pazzi 
to be connected with this festivity, says : — " The blessed 
fire of Holy Saturday is distributed throughout the city ; 
an inmate from each house goes to light a taper at the 

The Dove of Holy Saturday. 33 

cathedral, and from this solemnity arose great honour to 
the noble house of Pazzi through one of their ancestors, 
named Pazzo, who was tall and strong, and could carry 
a larger fascine of tapers than any one else; he was 
therefore the first to take the holy fire, and then he 
distributed it to others." 

The use of the car is also explained by the Pazzi 
family only taking a few tapers at first; in time these 
were increased in number, and a car was made to carry 
them. The real origin of the car being forgotten, it was 
transformed into a trophy, and the tapers into fireworks. 

" Tantum aevi longinqua valet mutare vetustas ! " 



Leaving Florence by the Porta S. Frediano we drove 
about four miles to the ancient Badia a Settimo, famous 
in the political as well as the religious annals of Tuscany. 
The peasants were as busy as bees, preparing casks and 
vats for the vintage, and the universal hammering was quite 
deafening, mingled with the beating out of the sagina — 
a kind of millet much grown for making brooms, which 
are sent by shiploads to England and America. Most 
beautiful are the fields of sagina ; it grows six or seven 
feet high, the light green leaves bending gracefully to the 
breeze, and the loose tuft of seed falling like a cascade of 
chestnut-coloured rain from the tops of the tall stems. 
To English eyes the wealth of grapes appeared in- 
credible, and the colours marvellous. From maple to 
maple hung long garlands of vines in fantastic shapes, 
the Buon Amico, or "good friend," with large loose 
bunches of purple-black grapes, the Trebbiano, brilliant 
yellow, with the sunny side stained a deep brown, the 

3 6 Italian Sketches. 

Uva Grassa, a dull yellow-green, and the lovely Occhio di 
Pernice, or "partridge's eye," of a light pink with ruby 
lines meandering about in every grape, the flavour of 
which was quite equal to its beauty. The contadini were 
much amused at our admiration, and insisted on our 
tasting the various kinds of grapes. Immense golden 
pumpkins, melons, water-melons, and scarlet tomatoes 
were being picked, and on some of the farms the women 
and children were busily employed in making round 
cakes of the latter fruit, and drying them in the sun for 
winter consumption. Outside the windows hung branches 
of the Acacia horrida, of which the crown of thorns is 
said to have been made ; each long thorn bearing a crop 
of skinned figs, the gelatinous, sweet drops of juice oozing 
out and congealing in the sun's rays. On the low walls 
surrounding the threshing-floors were flat baskets, boards, 
and plates, all covered with split peaches and figs drying 
in the sun, for the children to eat in winter with their 

About half-way we crossed the little torrent Greve 
over a picturesque old bridge, with a pretty little oratory 
perched on the top. It was built by Pisan prisoners in 
the days when every Italian city was at deadly feud with 
its neighbour. 

Turning off the high-road to the right, the gate-tower 
cf the Badia a Settimo rose high above the plain, and 
soon the long, picturesque line of machicolated walls of 

The Valley of the Arno. 37 

what is left of the monastery came into sight. In 940 it 
was a dependency of the powerful Counts of Borgonuovo, 
or Fucecchio. Count Lotario enlarged the abbey, which 
was inhabited by the Cluniacense monks, in 1004. His 
son, Count Gugliemo Bulgaro, was a munificent patron, 
and among other possessions gave them the church of 
San Salvatore, in the Apennines, with the vast territory 
of Stale (hospice), as a hermitage for those monks who 
desired to retire from the world. Stale in after-times was 
raised to a countship, and in the fourteenth century was 
an apple of discord between Bologna and Florence. 
Count Gugliemo was a friend of St. John Gualberto, and 
asked him to reform the monastery of Settimo, where 
abuses and evil customs of all sorts had taken root ; and 
until his death, in 1073, the saintly abbot of Vallombrosa 
reigned supreme, and introduced his own rule. It was 
here by his order that St. Peter Igneus, in 1068, went 
through the ordeal of fire, in the presence of an immense 
concourse of people. The following inscriptions still 
exist attesting the fact : — 

" Igneus hie Petrus medios pertransiit ignes, 
Flammarum victor, sed magis haereseos." 
" Hoc in loco, miraculo S. Joannis Gualberti, quidam fuere con- 
futati Haeretici. MLXX." 

A considerable portion of the Laurentian codes was 
executed about this time in the Badia a Settimo, bought 
by the Medicis afterwards for a large sum, for their library 

38 Italian Sketches. 

in Florence : the monks were also famous agriculturists 
and hydraulic engineers. 

Emperors and popes took the abbey under their pro- 
tection, and, in 1236, Gregory IX. gave it to the Cis- 
tercians, and declared it to be under the immediate 
protection of the Holy See. The exemplary life of the 
new inhabitants of the monastery so gained the esteem 
of the public that the Signory of Florence confided to 
them the administration of the taxes, the maintenance of 
the city walls and the bridges, the construction of the 
castles and fortified places in the Florentine district, and 
finally declared them keepers of the great seal. The large 
possessions of the abbey served as a guarantee, and the 
monks were exempt from all taxes to the state ; how con- 
siderable their revenue must have been is proved by the 
large sum each abbot paid on investiture to the Court of 
Rome — a thousand golden florins. Various mills were 
erected by them on the banks of the Arno ; but the weirs 
and locks interfered with navigation, and caused such 
serious inundations that, in 1385, the Republic of Florence 
ordered their demolition. 

The abbey suffered so much during the siege of 
Florence in 1529 that Paul IV. permitted the abbot and 
the greater part of his monks to migrate to the monastery 
of Cestello, near Porta Pinti, which had belonged to them 
since 1442. Tradition assigns the campanile, a hundred 
and eleven feet high, a model of elegance, to the munificent 

The Valley of the Arno. 39 

Count Gugliemo. At the base it is round, about half 
way up it becomes hexagonal, with small machicolations 
at the summit, and a pyramidical roof. Vasari, in his 
life of Niccolo Pisano, attributes this lovely bell-tower to 
the famous Pisan architect, who was certainly consulted 
about alterations to the church, and in fact it resembles 
the well-known campanile of San Niccolo at Pisa. 

On approaching the Badia a Settimo, the tall gate- 
tower is most imposing, with its machicolations and the 
curious large alto-relievo of our Lord and two saints, 
built in brick and mortar, and evidently of great an- 
tiquity. There are still traces of painted angels' heads 
in the niche containing the figures. Below the feet of 
Christ is a stone, bearing the lily of Florence and an 
illegible inscription; under that again is a marble slab 
with "Anno Domini MCCXXXVI S. S. Dmn. N. 
Gregorius IX. dedit hoc Monasterium de Septimo Ordin. 
Cisterc. cum esset liberum et exemptum ab omni regio 
patronatu, quod in plena libertate a dicto Ordine pacifice 

This tower was connected in old times with the for- 
tress-like walls with which the Republic of Florence 
surrounded the monastery after the inroads of the Pisans 
under Giovanni Acuto (Sir John Hawkwood), in 137 1. 
There were three other towers, and a broad walk all 
round the top of the walls, which were also defended by 
a moat, and each tower had a drawbridge. How im- 

40 Italian Sketches. 

posing the Badia must have been in those days before 
the Arno had deposited over fifteen feet of mud, which 
conceals so much of the ancient structure ! Now the 
monastery is a private villa, and the cloisters, with their 
slender columns and beautifully carved capitals, resound 
to the pitter-patter of children's feet and the joyous 
laughter of young girls. The refectory of the monks, 
more than half-buried, has been divided into various 
cellars, and the fine old abbey church, with its solemn, 
antediluvian-looking columns, is the tinaia where the 
wine is made. Huge vats are ranged round the walls, 
and the lithe, brown-limbed contadini tread the foaming 
must, and sing their gay stornelli, where the black-robed 
monks once chanted hymns and psalms. One can judge 
of the original height of the building by one column 
which is excavated to its base, and of which there is 
much less above than underground. 

The present church was built at right angles to the 
ancient edifice, and nearer the campanile in the thirteenth 
century. Round the choir runs a pretty frieze of the 
school of Luca della Robbia, four winged angels' heads 
alternating with the kneeling lamb holding a banner, 
emblem of the guild of wool manufacturers. The high 
altar is a magnificent specimen of pietra dura work, 
and Giovanni di San Giovanni used his facile brush in 
1629 to great effect in the left-hand chapel, where is a 
small marble Ambrey (or receptacle for the holy oil), by 

The Valley of the Arno. 41 

Desiderio da Settignano, which is a perfect jewel. Above 
the altar of this chapel, behind painted doors, is kept a 
large silver casket containing the bones of St. Quentin, 
whose story was related in a most graphic manner by the 
priest's nephew, a small boy of about thirteen. He 
demurred to showing us the reliquary, as it entailed 
fetching two keys and lighting all the candles; but he 
informed us that St. Quentin was beheaded in Paris a 
thousand years ago. By a miracle his body was trans- 
ported to a church on the opposite side of the Arno, 
which, however, the saint did not like, so the silver chest 
floated across the river, and in 1187 was brought to the 
Badia a Settimo, and deposited in the centre of the 
church in front of the high altar. "Ma non ci voile 
stare, pover uomo" (but he would not remain, poor 
fellow), continued our informant, " and every morning 
the monks found him in this chapel ; and so here he is, 
but without his head, for he could not find it when he 
left Paris. However, the box is full of bones," and the 
boy moved his two arms up and down as though violently 
shaking in imagination the remains of the poor saint, 
to make them rattle. As the present church, witli St. 
Quentin's chapel, dates several hundred years later than 
the finding of the silver casket, we may be allowed to 
place a note of interrogation against the powers of 
migration of the headless saint. 

To the right of the high altar is the ancient Spini 

4 2 Italian Sketches. 

chapel, which must have been detached from the original 
church, like the Cappella degli Spagnuoli in Sta. Maria 
Novella at Florence, and been entered from the cloisters. 
There are still dim traces of the frescoes by BurTalmacco. 
Now the chapel is like a cavern, as the deposit of the 
river has raised the surface of the ground to such a 
degree that the spring of the arches nearly touches the 
floor. There is an inscription setting forth that this 
chapel was built for the soul of Lapi des Spinis, in 

High banks and dykes now keep the Arno in some 
control, but the tremendous flood of 1844 filled the 
chapel to the roof with muddy water, and completed 
the ruin of three or four fine pictures which were in the 
sacristy, and are now in the Uffizzi gallery at Florence 
undergoing restoration, if possible. The peasants near 
by had to take their bullocks and horses up into the 
bedrooms to save them from drowning. It seems that 
the poor beasts went upstairs willingly enough, " but all 
the king's horses and all the king's men " could not get 
them down again, so that in some instances the oxen had 
to be slaughtered and carried down piecemeal. 

We were informed by the priest that even the present 
church had been built high above the level of the 
ground, and was approached hy a flight of steps, now 
deep under the earth. The bases of the pillars which 
support the loggia in front of the church are more than 

The Valley of the Arno. 43 

half-buried, and some tombs which were let into the 
walls have disappeared. The cenotaph of the Countess 
Gasdia, wife of the great Count Gugliemo Bulgaro, with 
a laudatory inscription, is still to be seen, with an inscrip- 
tion above recording the burial of the Countess Cilia, 
her daughter-in-law, who died in 1096. It must have 
been placed in its present position, to the right of the 
church door, when the ancient abbey-church was 

Passing through the village of San Colombano we 
drove along pretty country lanes, the hedges all glowing 
with the scarlet berries of the orange thorn, and the 
trees clothed in vines, towards Lastra a Signa. At one 
farm they had begun the vintage; men, women, and 
children were busily occupied, the men on ladders 
cutting down the pendice (two vine canes twisted carefully 
together in the early spring, with the eyes turned out- 
wards), the women picking off all the leaves, which serve 
as fodder for the cattle. The finest pendice are hung up 
inside the loggia, which almost invariably adorns a Tus- 
can farmhouse, in order to dry the grapes gradually for 
colouring and strengthening the wine after the first fer- 
mentation. The stately white oxen were chewing the 
cud, and the red ox-cart with a large vat tied on, and 
the wooden h'goncia, all stained with the red vine juice, 
looked most Bacchanalian. A handsome young conta- 
dino came along at a swinging trot with a bigoncia poised 

44 Italian Sketches. 

on one shoulder, in which the purple and yellow grapes 
were piled high. How Cesare Benozzo — for that, he 
told us, was his name — ever managed to carry so incon- 
venient a thing without intense suffering we could not 
make out. The contents of the bigoncia were emptied 
with a thud and a splash into the vat, which, when full, 
went creaking and groaning slowly home to the tinai'a, 
where the grapes were transferred to the larger vats after 
being well crushed. 

The medieval machicolated walls and towers, and the 
old gateways of Lastra a Signa are intact. A fortified 
castle, called Gangalandi, was erected in 1226 to defend 
the road to Pisa (after the destruction of the ancient 
fortress of Monte Orlando in 1107), which was taken and 
burnt by the Pisans, aided by their English auxiliaries, in 

With proverbial astuteness the Florentines contrived 
some years later to bribe Giovanni Acuto (Sir John 
Hawkwood), the famous condottiere, who left his Pisan 
masters and entered their service. His portrait, on his 
war-horse, is over the right-hand door of the cathedral of 
Florence, painted by Paolo Uccello in terra verde, in 
1436. The action of the horse of the " Incliti Militis 
Domini Joannis Aguti " has given rise to endless dis- 
cussion among mathematicians and philosophers of the 
Renaissance, which are amusing enough. He is evidently 
ambling, so that Paolo Uccello is unjustly called pictor 

The Valley of the Arno. 45 

ineptus by one of these learned scholars for making the 
horse raise the two off-legs simultaneously. 

Sir John Hawkwood was the most famous of the con- 
dottieri, or captains of free bands in the fourteenth century; 
he crossed the Alps in 136 1, and his first feat of arms in 
Italy was to take prisoner the " Green Count " of Savoy, 
at Cirie, a small town of Piedmont. He was an Essex 
yeoman, the born vassal of John de Vere, seventh Earl 
of Oxford, with whom he seems to have made the cam- 
paign in France in 1343. In 1376 Pope Gregory XI. 
bestowed on him the two castles of Cotignola and Bagna- 
cavallo, near Faenza, the earliest instance on record of 
the grant of a sovereign fief by any Italian potentate to 
an alien. Some of Hawkwood's letters still existing at 
Mantua bear various signatures, thus : " Johannes 
Haukutd, Hauchbod, Haubchod, Hauchwod, Hauh- 
cunod, Haucud." The name "Acuto," by which the 
great condottiere is known in Italian history, and which is 
inscribed on his tomb at Florence, would scarcely have 
been identified with Hawkwood, if Villani had not 
recorded that in English it signified " Falcone in Bosco " 
(Hawk in a wood). 

Lastra a Signa was rebuilt in 1377 by the Republic of 
Florence, according to the advice of Sir John Hawkwood, 
and twenty years later the unfortunate little town was 
invested and taken by Alberigo, captain of Galeazzo 
Visconti, Lord of Milan, who was at deadly feud with the 

46 Italian- Sketches. 

Signory. Again the walls were restored; and in 1529, 
when the imperialists besieged Florence, Francesco Fer- 
rucci, whose headquarters were at Empoli, five miles 
down the river, garrisoned Lastra a Signa with some of 
his bravest troops. The Prince of Orange sent a strong 
force of Spaniards with scaling-ladders to take the place, 
who were repulsed with considerable loss ; but munitions 
ran short in the fortress, and while negotiations were 
going on, five hundred more Spanish lances arrived with 
battering-rams, effected an entrance on the south-east 
side, and cut the gallant defenders to pieces. 

There is nothing remarkable in the village, save a 
picturesque loggia, still bearing traces of lavish decoration, 
which was part of the hospital for pilgrims once existing 
inside the walls. It has been barbarously maltreated ; 
part is now a theatre, the rest is carpenters' shops. The 
population is squalid and miserable enough, and it does 
not bear a good name, they are mostly employed in plait- 
ing, sewing, and ironing straw hats, and the clatter of the 
hopper used for sorting the straw is incessant. The so- 
called Leghorn hats are all plaited in the lower Val d'Arno, 
and before the introduction of the cheap Japanese reed 
hats the women earned so much that the men did not 
think it worth while to work, and spent their time in 
gambling and loitering. Straw hats have diminished so 
much in price that a woman barely gains threepence a 
day, unless she is very expert, and can do the finest plait 

The Valley of the Arno. 47 

with fifteen or more straws, or is clever enough to invent 
a new pattern. 

Skirting the fine walls we turned to the left, opposite 
the Portone del Baccio, the southern gate-tower of Lastra 
a Signa, now used as a prison, and followed the old Pisan 
road, up the valley of Rimaggio, to see the castle of Mal- 
mantile, some two and a half miles hence. The monastery 
of St. Lucia crowns the hill on our right, built where the 
fortress of Monte Orlando once stood ; in the quiet 
convent garden under the solemn cypresses are still some 
fragments of the ancient walls of the castle, the last strong- 
hold of the great Counts of Fucecchio in this neighbour- 
hood, destroyed by the Florentines in 1107. 

The road to Malmantile following the little stream of 
Rimaggio, is beautiful ; steep hillsides clothed with 
heather and pines, patches of cyclamen and the autumn 
crocus, or colchicum, glowing in the sunlight, while last 
year's leaves of the Christmas roses were yellow, bright 
brown, and almost black, and shaggy goats climbing 
among the jutting rocks formed a picture worthy of the 
brush of Salva tor Rosa. 

We passed four water-mills, and then, perched on a 
well-wooded knoll, with jagged rocks and a tangled 
undergrowth of honeysuckle, heather, and brambles, 
whose leaves were turning red and purple, saw the farm- 
house of St. Antonio, which must in old times have been 
a fortress, dominating the valley. It is picturesque 

48 Italian Sketches. 

enough, all corners, angles, and arches, with a grey 

tower, now the home of numerous pigeons 

" Cooing all their sweet love-ditties 
As their white wings flap or fold. " 

Two mutilated angels in terra-cotta, apparently of the 

school of Verrocchio, keep watch and ward over the 

farmhouse in niches on either side of an archway. A 

pleasant-looking old contadina was washing on the aja 

(threshing-floor), and asking her about the angels, she 

told us with some pride that a chapel existed where mass 

was said once a year for the dead who were buried 


" It has always been here — at least, when I say always, 
for 1382 years," said she, counting the centuries on her 
fingers as though they were centimes; "and that is 
always, is it not, signora ? " 

We went in to see the chapel which has been modern- 
ized, but on lifting a stained and faded curtain of blue 
calico which covered the wall behind the altar, we saw 
a very fine ancient fresco, evidently by a master hand of 
the early fifteenth century. St. Antonio is seated in the 
middle, with God the Father above, and on either side 
stand three life-size saints. St. Stephen next the window 
was particularly beautiful, with a sweet, solemn face one 
was never tired of looking upon. The old woman of 
course knew nothing of the history of either house or 
fresco, save that it was roba antica (old stuff), and that 

The Valley of the Arno. 49 

her padrone had put the curtain because the saints were 
schifoso (dirty). He had intended repainting them, but 
artists were people without any conscience, or else their 
colours cost a lot of money ; so the blue calico had been 
bought as a way out of the difficulty. Fortunately the 
pot of whitewash had not been thought of ! 

A little higher up the view is lovely. The valley we 
had just left forms a perfect V, with the grey tower and 
picturesque arches of St. Antonio rising in the very 
centre, like a watch-dog set to guard the pass ; further 
down, the long line of the monastery of St. Lucia is 
perched on the brow of the hill to the left, and the back- 
ground is formed by the broad plain of the Arno, bathed 
in a golden mist, while Monte Morello, at whose foot 
lies Doccia, the china manufactory of the Ginori family, 
makes a violet-grey mass in the far distance. 

Another hill, and the castle of Malmantile is seen 
crowning the very summit, and standing out against the 
blue sky in solitary grandeur. The view thence is ex- 
tensive and imposing; the barren, rolling hills seem 
endless as we look over the Val di Pesa, and far-off St. 
Miniato al Tedesco 

"lifts to heaven 
Her diadem of towers." 

" Risiede Malmantile sovra un poggetto : 
E chiunque verso lui volta le ciglia, 
Dice che i fondatori ebber concetto 
Di fabbricar' l'ottava maraviglia, 


so Italian Sketches. 

L'ampio paese poi, che egli ha soggetto 
Non si sa (vo' giuocare) a mille miglia : 
Ve l'aria buona, azzurra oltramarina : 
E non vi manca latte di gallina. " 

u Malmantile is placed on a hillock, and whoso turns 
his eyes that way will say that the founders were minded 
to make the eighth wonder of the world. The vast 
territory subject to the castle is not known (I bet) for a 
thousand miles round. There is excellent air and a blue 
sky, and even the milk of hens is not wanting." 

Thus writes Lorenzo Lippi in his // Malmantile 
Racqtiistato, the mock-heroic poem, dear to every Tuscan, 
which has made the old castle celebrated. Few other 
people would have the patience to wade through 428 
pages, full of not only Tuscanisms, but Florentinisms, if 
I may coin the word. The painter, famous for his wit 
and power of repartee, used to stay in a villa near by 
with his friend Alessandro Valori, and employed his 
leisure hours in writing the poem on Malmantile, which 
word signifies a worn-out tablecloth \ the proper names 
in the poem are nearly all anagrams, more or less witty, 
and the allegory seems to point the moral that those who 
lead a life of feasting and gaiety generally die on a dung- 
hill. The proverb, Andare a Malmantile (Going to 
Malmantile), is used as a gibe against avaricious persons 
who do not give their friends enough to eat. 

From the archives in Florence we learn that on the 

The Valley of the Arno. 51 

5th of May, 1424, "The Most Honourable Ten, over- 
seers of the city, and of the districts of Pisa, Pistoja, 
Volterra, and other places, made a statement to the 
Signory of Florence that the castle of Malmantile di 
Selva was unfinished and a discredit to the noble Re- 
public, as well as a danger; so on the 16th of September 
of the same year a contract was signed and sealed 
between the Honourable Ten and Piero di Curradino, 
and Ambruogio di Lionardo, master masons, before the 
Florentine notary, Antonio di Puccino di Ser Andrea. 
The maestri undertook to finish the castle with machico- 
lations and towers similar to those of Lastra a Signa, and 
also to make a deep ditch round the fortress." 

There is a tradition that Malmantile was unsuccessfully 
besieged by the Prince of Orange and his Spaniards, but 
I can find no confirmation of it. 

The old castle is in ruins, and wretched hovels, which 
have sprung up like mushrooms, are tacked on to the 
walls. The people are miserably poor, but smiling and 
pleasant ; on our admiring the singing of a pretty girl, 
whose blue cotton frock was better made than those of 
her companions, her mother said, with evident pride, but 
with an accent which tried to be disapproving, " Si, e 
come il cuculo, tutto voce and penne " (Yes, she is like 
the cuckoo, all voice and feathers), which we thought 
was apt enough. 

The sun was declining, and the civetta (passerine 

52 Italian Sketches. 

owl) was beginning to utter its melancholy cry, so with 
a last look at the picturesque old ruin we turned our 
horses' heads towards the City of Flowers, and drove 

1  The skies yet blushing with departed light, 
When falling dews with spangles deck the glade, 
And the low sun had lengthen'd every shade." 


1 1 V % 

I Mil ! i?; ^il , 

• v •W///lwMvfl~ » y — " w ~ 




"La gentil Toscana? as her friends lovingly call her, is 
certainly the land of song. Every one sings, from the 
highest to the lowest, and all can join in the chorus of 
the popular stornelli — born, one knows not where — which 
crop up every spring with the flowers, and every autumn 
with the ripening grapes. It is difficult to get the people 
to sing their rispetti or stornelli for you. They will not 
believe that any one can care for their roba antica, or old 
stuff; and as to repeating the words — " Questa va in 
canto in discorso non si puol dire " (This does for singing, 
but one cannot say the words), will be their answer. The 
peasants, the bricklayers, carpenters, etc., generally sing 
at their work, and the stornello particularly is pressed 
into every variety of service. The lover serenades his 
mistress with burning words of love ; the disappointed 
suitor, as he passes the house of his successful rival, or 
of the faithless fair one, insults or upbraids with a 
stornello ; two women quarrel — they instantly begin to 
stornellare each other, ridiculing personal defects, or 
voiding family quarrels in the choicest Tuscan. 

54 Italian Sketches. 

The rispetto is, almost without exception, a love-song 
in six, eight, or ten lines. The music is melancholy, 
often in the minor key, and some of the old airs are like 
a recitative, the end notes being drawn out as long as 
possible ; some of them sound very like Eastern airs. 

How it is that no musician has ever taken the trouble 
to note down the music of the real popular songs, I 
cannot imagine. Gordigiani, Campani, Palloni, and many 
other maestri have composed music to the old words, 
or to modern imitations of them, but their rispetti and 
stornelli are very unlike the genuine thing. The old airs 
are difficult to catch, and still more difficult to note ; but I 
have succeeded in making a considerable collection, some 
from the peasants in the country, some from friends, and 
others from hackney coachmen, masons, etc., in Florence. 
The inhabitants of the San Frediano and San Nicolb 
quarters of the town are reckoned the best singers, and 
a guitar is to be seen in nearly every house on the 
southern, or unfashionable side of the Arno. New songs 
are composed by the people every year, and on fine 
summer nights one often meets a silent crowd of one 
or two hundred people following three or four men with 
guitars, and perhaps a flute. You ask an explanation. 
" E Oreste che canta " (It is Oreste who is singing) is 
the answer. Some of them have beautiful voices and 
sing wonderfully well. I know of a young mason with 
a tenor voice who was offered ^400 a year — a large sum 

Popular Songs of Tuscany. 55 

in Florence — if he would learn to sing for the stage ; but 
he preferred his liberty, and refused. As the singers 
pass slowly through the streets, you hear the noise of 
opening windows far ahead, and occasionally a loud 
" bene ! " or " bravo ! " comes from above, generally 
acknowledged by the little band stopping a few minutes 
to finish their song. One of the well-known singers in 
Florence at the present moment unites the incongruous 
occupations of a butcher and a flower vendor. In 
winter he kills oxen and lambs, and in summer he sells 
flowers. When he sleeps I know not, as he sings nearly 
all night long in the different people's cafes and in the 
streets with his companions. 

G. Tigri, one of the most elegant among modern 
writers, has made an excellent collection of the words 
of stornelli and rispetti. The rispetto may be defined as 
a respectful (rispettoso) salutation from a lover to his 
mistress, or vice versd. The following is an example : — 

" Vi vengo a salutare, rosa gentile, 
Vera delizia del giardin d'amore. 
Decco qua il vostro servo umile e vile, 
Chi v'a donato la sua vita e il cuore. 
A voi s'inclina reverente e umile, 
Come si deve a un fedel servitore ; 
Pero ti prego, rosa colorita, 
Sarai cagion ch'io perdero la vita ? " 

("I come to greet thee, gentle rose, that solely 
The true delight of love's fair garden art : 

56 Italian Sketches. 

Look down upon thy slave, so poor and lowly, 
Who hath to thee given up his life and heart. 
To thee he bows him down in reverence holy, 
Fulfilling so a faithful servant's part ; 
But yet I pray thee, rose of brightest hues, 
Wouldst thou be cause that I my life should lose ? ') 

Here is a charming description of the seven beauties a 

woman ought to possess : — 

" Sette bellezze vuol' aver la donna : 
Prima — che bella si possa chiamare ; 
Alta dev' esser senza la pianella, 
E bianca e rossa senza su' lisciare ; 
Larga di spalla e stretta in cinturella ; 
La bella bocca, e il bel nobil parlare. 
Se poi si tira su le bionde trecce, 
Decco la donna di sette bellezze." 

("The perfect woman should have beauties seven : 
Before she have the right to be called fair — 
Tall she should be, without her slippers even ; 
Of red and white in which paint claims no share. 
To shoulders broad a thin waist should be given ; 
From sweet lips, sweet and noble speech must fare : 
If, besides these, she should be golden-tressed, 
Behold the maid with the seven beauties blessed ! ") 

Again, the lover hears the moon lamenting the loss of 

two of her stars. She complains to Cupid, and refuses 

to remain in the sky : — 

" La luna s'e venuta a lamentare, 
Inde la faccia del divino Amore ; 
Dice che in cielo non ci vuol piu stare ; 
Che tolto gliel' avete lo splendore. 
E si lamenta, e si lamenta forte ; 
L' ha conto le sue stelle, non son tutte. 

Popular Songs of Tuscany. 57 

E gliene manca due, e voi f avete ; 

Son que' du' occhi che in fronte tenete ! " 

(" The moon has come to make her lamentation ; 
Before the face of Cupid she doth bend her : 
No more i' the sky, she says, she'll hold her station, 
Because that you have robbed her of her splendour. 
And still her loud lament on this doth bear, 
That when she counts her stars, all are not there. 
There are two missing — and the theft is thine : 
They are the two eyes in thy face that shine.") 

Generally speaking, the last two lines of the rispetto 
are repetitions in altered words of the two former ones. 
It is difficult to render the tender grace, the perfect 
simplicity, and the purity of language and of style, in a 
translation. The peasants, shepherds, and charcoal- 
burners of the Pistoian mountains speak to this day the 
Italian, or rather the Tuscan, of the great poets. They 
read Tasso in the winter nights, sitting round the big 
open fireplace ; the scholar of the house reads aloud ; 
and the verse of the gentle poet may perhaps live longer 
under the fir-trees of the Apennines than upon the 
lagunes of Venice. The children learn long passages 
by heart, and the recognized declaration of love by a 
young peasant is his singing the ottave rime of Tasso 
under the window of the girl he purposes to court with 
a" view to marriage. The songs which come from the 
mountains are not more remarkable for the beauty of 
their language than for their delicacy and the respect for 
women which they breathe. Thus : — 

58 Italian Sketches. 

" Se dormi, o se non dormi, viso adorno, 
Alza la bionda e delicata testa — 
Ascolta lo tuo amor che tu hai d' intorno, 
Dice che tu ti affacci alia finestra ; 
Ma non ti dice che tu vada fuora, 
Perche la notte e cosa disonesta : 
Facciati alia finestra, e stanne in casa, 
Perch'io sto fuora, e fo — 1' inserenata. 
Facciati alia finestra, e stanne dentro, 
Perch'io sto fuora, e faccio un gran lamento." 

("Sleep'st thou, or wak'st thou, sweet face of my dearest? 
Lift that fair head in all its delicate beauty — 
List to the love that to thy heart sits nearest — 
He tells thee that to look out is thy duty : 
But tells thee not to come out in the gloaming, 
For night is not the time for maiden's roaming : 
But look out from the casement of thy chamber, 
Because I stand and sing, nor think to clamber. 
Look from thy casement — to this prayer consenting, 
Because I stand without, and make a great lamenting.") 

In autumn there is a considerable emigration of the 
able-bodied men from the hills above Pistoia and the 
country round Siena to the Maremma, to find work. 
They push on as far as Elba, Corsica, and Sardinia, 
where they are employed as miners, wood-cutters, char- 
coal-burners, and road-makers. But the love they bear 
to their Apennines never waxes dim, and they generally 
keep together in bands from the same village or district. 
In spring they return with their carefully hoarded earn- 
ings to their families. This yearly wandering has given 
rise to many of their songs. The following is the parting 
song of a young lover to his sweetheart : — 

Popular Songs of Tuscany. 59 

"Quando die mi partii dal mi' paese, 
Lasciai piangendo la mi 'nnamorata, 
Et P era tanto bella e si cortese, 
Chi prese a domandar della tornata. 
E gli risposi con poche parole : 
La tornata sara quando Dio vuole ; 
E gli risposi con parole umile : 
La tornata sara fra maggio e aprile ! " 

("When from my village I was boun' for starting, 
I parted from my love with salt tears burning, 
So fair and courteous in that hour of parting 
Was she, she questioned me of my returning, 
And I made brief reply to my heart's treasure, 
That my return would be at God's good pleasure ; 
And I made her reply, in humble way, 
I would return 'twixt April-tide and May.") 

The girl whose lover has gone sings : — 

" Come faranno i mi' occhi beati 
A star lontan da voi cinque o sei mesi ? 
Come faranno, che so' innamorati ? 
A noia gli verran queste paesi : 
A noia gli verran questi contorni : 
Sempre preghero 1' ciel che tu ritorni. 
A noia gli verran cheste giornate : 
Sempre preghero V ciel che ritorniate." 

(" What will these eyes do, late so blest in seeing, 
With my love from me five or six months parted ? 
What will they do, to whom love was their being ? 
How will they loathe the hamlet whence he started, 
The country round about how they'll be spurning ! 
My constant prayer shall be for thy returning. 
How heavily the days will pass, alack ! 
The while I pray Heaven for thy coming back. ") 

Her lover replies : — 

6d Italian Sketches. 

"Tornero, tornero, non dubitare, 
Caro mio bene, non aver paura, 
Che a breve tempo mi vedrai tornare : 
Che impressa porto ognor la tua figura. 
Allor ti cessero, bella, d' amare, 
Quando morto saro in sepoltura." 

("I'll return, I'll return ; fear not that, my own dearie, 
With never a doubt let thy heart be distrest, 
That after brief absence again I'll be near thee, . 
And till then thy face I bear stamped on my breast, 
Nor e'er will I cease in my heart's core to wear thee, 
Till dead in the cold of the tomb I'm at rest") 

A number of the letters written during these long 

absences are in rhyme, either composed by the young 

people themselves, or, if they cannot write, by the 

village poet, who has a large custom, and for a few pence 

writes the letter in prose or in verse, and even paints 

some fitting symbol on the first page — such as a heart 

transfixed by a dart, two hearts bound by a chain, two 

vases of flowers, or two wreaths. Some of these letters 

have been collected and printed by G. Tigri and by 

Tommaseo. Those which invoke the aid of the swallow 

are particularly pretty, begging the bird who comes from 

the sea to stay her flight, and to give the disconsolate 

lover a feather from her lovely wing, wherewith to write 

to his love a golden letter : promising to give back the 

amorous feather to the swallow, and begging her to carry 

the letter safely to his lady love. Another complains 

that he tried to write the name he loves, but the pen was 

so full of melancholy and the inkstand of sorrow, that 

Popular Songs of Tuscany. 6i 

he never could succeed, adding that if the waters of the 
sea were ink, the earth paper, and all the grass that 
grows on it pens, he would still need more sheets of 
paper to tell the immensity of his love. 

Many of the phrases and comparisons in these letters 
are taken from the old rispetti and stomelli, which every 
peasant learns by heart as a child, together with the 
proverbs in which Tuscany is so rich. Some, again, have 
doubtless descended for generations, and the lover has 
only to change a name, and the colour of the hair and 
eyes, to make his letter suitable. Others are descriptions 
of the Maremma and of the work doing, or of Rome, the 
" city of eternal beauty." 

The rispetti have a likeness to the ancient strambotti 
(derived from Strani Motti), which used to be sung in 
Sicily in Manfred's time, and I believe that in some 
parts of Tuscany the peasants still use the latter name 
for their songs. They were successfully imitated by 
Pulci, Poligiani, and Lorenzo the Magnificent, some of 
whose sonnets are even now popular. 

In the villages the old custom of andare a veglia 
still exists. At nightfall the young men go in companies 
to houses where there are young girls, to sing and dance ; 
some of their dances are accompanied by songs, such 
as La Galletta and La Veneziana. The dancers sing 
two lines, and the musician then plays the ricordino, or 
intercalare, a sort of quick refrain, generally in the minor 

62 ' Italian Sketches. 

key, while the young people dance round him in couples. 
The following are favourite words to these dance airs : — 

" La bella ballerina e entrata in ballo, 
Mirala un po' come la balla bene ! 
Mirala al collo'se le' ci ha il corallo ; 
La bella ballerina e entrata in ballo. 
Mirala al petto se le' ci ha il bel fiore ; 
La bella ballerina e col suo amore. 
Mirala in dito se le' ci ha il diamante ; 
La bella ballerina e col suo amante, 
Mirala in petto se le' ci ha la rosa ; 
La bella ballerina e fatta sposa. " 

("The graceful dancer hath come to the dancing. 
Look at her — only look — how well she dances ! 
Look at her neck, what coral on it glancing ! 
The graceful dancer hath come to the dancing. 
Look at her breast, how sweet a flower is there ! 
The graceful dancer now is with her dear. 
Look at her hand, which rings of diamond cover ; 
The graceful dancer now is with her lover. 
Look, how her rosy breast the roses hide, 
The graceful dancer hath become a bride.") 

Other dances, as the Trescone, the Villan di Spagna, the 
Manfrina, the Marina, the Contraddanza, the Bergamasca, 
the Paesana, the Milordina, the Moresca, etc., have each 
their peculiar air, but no words ; except the Vita d' oro, 
when the man sings on ceasing to dance : — 

" O vita d' oro, vita d' argento ! 

Dammi la mano, che son contento ! " 

(" Oh, life of golden, life of silver store ! 

Give me thy hand, and I will ask no more.") 

Popular Songs of Tuscany, 63 

The ancient custom of going round and serenading the 
young girls on the last night of April still lingers in some 
Tuscan villages. The old Florentine writers describe 
the splendid festivals in town and country for the Calen 
di Maggio, and the songs called Maggi. The peasants 
in out-of-the-way villages still plant a branch of some 
flowering shrub before the doors of their sweethearts, or 
carry a kind of Maypole, Maw, adorned with fresh 
flowers and lemons, and sing in chorus, while the lover 
presents a small nosegay to his mistress : — 

" Or e di maggio, e fiorito e il limone ; 
Noi salutiamo di casa il padrone. 
Ora e di maggio, e gli e fiorito i rami ; 
Salutiam le ragazze co' suoi dami. 
Ora e di maggio, che fiorito e i fiori ; 
Salutiam le ragazze co' suoi amore." 

(" May-day is come — the lemon is in flower : 
Greet we the house-master, in happy hour. 
Now it is May, and blooms on boughs are hoar : 
We greet each maiden and her bachelor. 
Now May is come — earth its flower-carpet covers : 
Our greeting to the young girls and their lovers.") 

Till within a few years ago the young people of both 
sexes used to join together in companies on the evening 
of the 1 st of May, and serenade their friends, or the 
padrone, or any other benefactor they wished to honour. 
They improvised stornelli and rispetti to the accompani- 
ment of a violin, a guitar or two, and a tambourine, and 
wore bunches of gay-coloured silk ribbons on their hats 

64 Italian Sketches. 

and on their shoulders. The following is a serenade to 
a young married couple, probably the padrone and his 
young bride : — 

' ' Alzando gli occhi al cielo veddi il sole 
Accompagnato da una chiara Stella, 
Che sotto gli occhi miei facea splendore : 
Non ho mai visto una coppia si bella. 
Scusin, signori, s'io ho fatto errore 
Colla mia rozza semplice favella. 
Cola verdeggia una fiorita rosa, 
Donna gentile, delicata sposa : 
Preghero sempre la divina Madre, 
Che faccia vi figlio che somigli il padre ! " 

("I raised mine eyes to heaven, the sun was glowing, 
With but one star beside his course so fair, 
That as I looked its splendour still seemed growing. 
Never a couple have I seen so rare. 
But pardon, signors, if I, all unknowing, 
Have erred in this my speech so poor and bare ; 
So blooms a rose, the flower of summer-tide, 
As does this gentle dame, this dainty bride ; 
Still will I pray to our sweet Lady-Mother, 
A son to send as his sire such another.") 

When any one begins to sing stornelli (derived probably 
from the word storno, which means to send back or re- 
echo), he generally starts with an invitation or defiance, 
to induce his companions to reply to his song. In the 
old times the accepted term was Ecce, and the answer, 
Comma (begin). It was thus Burchiello, the cele- 
brated barber of the Via Calimara, where the rich cloth 
merchants of Florence had their shops, used to challenge 

Popular Songs of Tuscany. 65 

his friends to sing. Such men as Filippo Brunelleschi, 
who built the dome of the cathedral of Florence ; Luc a 
della Robbia, and his family ; Orcagna, and his scholars ; 
Lorenzo Ghiberti, who made the doors of the Baptistry 
— doors, said Michael Angelo, worthy of Paradise — were 
the friends of Burchiello. Gifted with a fine voice and 
feeling for music, with a biting tongue and ready wit, the 
barber's songs were the terror of his enemies and the 
delight of the people. To this day a certain class of 
songs are called burchielleschi. 

Near the church of Santa Croce, where Simone Memmi 
and Giotto loved to work, was the beautiful Fabbrini 
garden, famous for its orange trees — so famous, that a 
street near was called " Canto agli Aranci " (Corner of 
the Oranges) ; and here it was that the improvisatori most 
loved to congregate and challenge each other to im- 
provise to the guitar on any theme given by the by- 
standers. A certain Cristoforo, a Florentine, surnamed 
" l'Altissimo " (the Supreme), was a renowned improvi- 
satore about 1480. Another improvisatore of note was 
a secretary of the Republic, by name Bernardo Ascolti. 
Lorenzo dei Medici was celebrated both for his skill as 
a musician and as an improvisatore, and used to sing 
with a friend surnamed " Cardiere," who bore him a good 
second. In 1600, Doni says that singing in the open 
air, in gardens and cool places, was most popular in 
Florence ; and there existed a society of letterati who 


66 Italian Sketches. 

had raised the art of improvising in verse to the guitar 
to such a height that Leo X. gave them the permission 
to grant the title of poet, and a laurel crown, to any one 
they considered worthy of such honour. 

As late as 1725, Bernardino Perfetti, a Sienese, was 
crowned as an improvisatore at Rome, in the Campi- 
doglio ; and in 1776, Maddalena Morelli, of Pistoja, 
surnamed "Corinna Olimpica," achieved the same dis- 
tinction for her wonderful power of improvisation. She 
had the additional honour of suggesting a heroine to 
Madame de Stael. Many women have been famous for 
the grace of their language and beauty of voice; and 
even in these prosaic times there are a few left, whose 
improvising can rouse large audiences to enthusiasm. 

But to return to the stornello : it consists either of 

three lines of equal length, or of a short invocation or 

exclamation, and two lines by way of conclusion. The 

following is in common use as a stornello to start with, 

though the singer often improvises a polite defiance 

suited to his company : — 

" E io delli stornelli ne so tanti ! 
Ce n'ho da caricar sei bastimenti — 
Chi ne vuol profitar si faccia avanti ! " 

("Of catches I know so many, so many — 
Enough, I swear, six ships to load ! 
Step forward, step forward — who'd have any ! ") 

At the end of all the stornelli, and of a few of the 
rispetti, there is a kind of refrain, or chorus, called a 

Popular Songs of Tuscany. 

6 7 

rifiorita^ or passa gallo (cock's walk), sometimes with 
words, sometimes without. The following is a favourite 
air for the stornello a fiore, so called because it must 
begin with the invocation of a flower or blossom : — 
Adagio piii presto. 






Fior di li - mo - ne 1 Li - mon-e e a - gro e 







g- t*— fr-h 

non si puol man - gia - re, Li - mo-ne e a - gro e 



E333& M 

non si puol man - gia - re, Ma son piu a - gre 







le pe - ne d 'a - mo - re. Sei bel - li - na, lo 


sen - to, lo so, Port' i cap-pel - li alia roc-co - co ! 
(Other Rifiorita.) 



* -£— K 


-^ — > — wt— mh 

Pi - glia la ro - sa e la - sciar star la fo - glia, 

Ho tan-ta vo-glia di far all' a-morcon te 

68 Italian Sketches. 

" Fior di limone ! 
Limone e agro e non si puol mangiare, 
Ma son piu agre le pene d'amore. 

" Sei bellina, lo sento, lo so, 
Port' i cappelli alia roccoco ! 

" Fior di granato ! 
Se li sospiri miei fossero fuoco, 
Tutto il mondo sarebbe bruciato. 

" Piglia la rosa e lasciar star la foglia, 
Ho tanta voglia di far all' amor con te ! 

(" Lemon blossom ! 

The lemon it is bitter, too bitter for eating, 
But bitterer his pain that loves thee, sweeting. 

" Fair is my darling, I feel it and I know, 
And wears her hair dressed a la rococo. 

" Pomegranate blossom ! 
If a flame of fire were the sighs I sigh, 
All the world would be burnt thereby. 

Gather the roses, and let the leaves be, 
Dearly I love to make love to thee ! ") 

The following air is more popular in the city than in 
the country, and is often used for improvising insulting 
words, for which the common people of Tuscany have no 
little facility : — 

Popular Songs of Tuscany. 

6 9 







E que- sta stra - da, 
Di rose e fio re 

la vo' mat - to 
la vor - re' co 


Il^ SSB 


na - re, Di ro- se e 
pri - re, D'ac-qua 


pri - re, Tu sei bel - li 

na - re. 

tu sa -rai mia 

spo - sa,Tuseibel - li - na, l'i- do-lomiosei tu. 

But the pretty and anything but insulting words which 
we give, are often sung to it : — 

" E questa strada, la vo' mattonare ; 
Di rose e fiori la vorre' coprire ; 
D'acqua rosata la vorre' bagnare. 

Tu sei bellina, tu sarai mia sposa, 
Tu sei bellina, 1' idolo mio sei tu ! " 

(" Of the street where thou livest, I'd fain have the paving. 
With roses and sweet flowers I'd cover it o'er, 
With water of roses, too, everywhere laving ! 

For 'tis thou art my beauty — my bride thou shalt be, 
My beauty— I'll make my soul's idol of thee ! ") 

At the risk of wearying my readers, I give this stornello 
alia Pisana, or according to the fashion of Pisa, where 
the street singing is celebrated, and all the songs full of 


Italian Sketches. 

flourishes (fioriture), turns and runs (girigogoli). Take 
for example the peasant's song : — 

Quan-do na-sces - te voi 
La lu - na si fer - mo 

nac- que 
nel ca 

un bel 




7 Ft=*m 


- re. 

- re ) 


La lu - na si fer - mb 
Le stel-le si can-gia 

O Bion -di - na, co - me la 


Sen-za la 

la la 

" Quando nasceste voi nacque un bel fiore. 
La luna si fermo nel caminare, 
Le stelle si cangiaron di colore. 
" O Biondina, come la va, 
Senza la vela la barca non va ! " 

(" When thou wert born a flower came to completeness ; 
The moon stopped in its course, thy beauty seeing ; 
The stars changed colour at sight of thy sweetness. 

" My fair-haired beauty, how is't with thee ? say : 
Without the sail, the boat may not make way ! ") 

Popular Songs of Tuscany. 


But my space will not allow me to give more examples 
of the innumerable words and airs of the stornelli. I must 
not pass over without mention the patriotic songs, nearly 
all dating from 1848. Curiously enough, there are hardly 
any rispetti or stornelli containing patriotic sentiments. 
A few mention the Turks and barbarians, and complain 
how they carried away "La Bella Rosina" to slavery; 
or a girl on shore curses the Turkish chains which keep 
her love from returning to her arms. These point to the 
old days of the Saracen or Sallee Rover, the constant 
and daring ravager of the Mediterranean shores in the 
fifteenth and two following centuries. 

But 1848 brought new life to the patriotic sentiment 
of Italy, and quite changed for the time the character of 
its national poetry and music. Garibaldi became the 
hero and inspirer of popular minstrelsy, and those who 
joined him the objects of popular ovation. One of the 
best known and most popular of these patriotic songs is 
that of the Tuscan volunteers, as they marched to the 
field of battle when the cause of Italia una hung in the 
balance : — 






Ad - dio, mia bel - la, ad - di - - o, 
Da Capo. 









ma - ta se 

Se non par-tissi an - 

72 Italian Sketches. 





ch' io sa - reb - be u - na vil - ta. 

" Addio, mia bella, addio ! 
L'armata se ne va. 
Se non partissi anch' io, 
Sarebbe una vilta. 

" Grandi saranno l'ire, 
Grande il morir sara ; 
Si mora ! E' un bel morire 
Morir per liberta ! 

" Non e fraterna guerra 
La guerra ch' io faro ; 
Dall' Italiana terra 
L' estrano caccer6." 

(•• Adieu, adieu, my fair one ! 
The army takes the field ; 
If I did not march with it, 
A coward I were sealed. 

" Oh ! great will be our fury, 
And great our death will be. 
If death comes, 'tis brave dying 
To set our country free. 

"It is no war 'twixt brothers, 
The war to which I go, 
But from the land of Italy 
To drive the foreign foe.") 

So rang the chorus day and night for weeks and months, 
as the volunteers marched through the ancient streets 
and squares of the City of Flowers, armed and banded 
for the first time, in the inspiring cause of ''Italy one 

Popular Songs of Tuscany. 


and free." Time brought some deceptions, [some dis- 
illusions, and many disagreements and dissensions. 

This same song made its appearance again in 1859; 
but since Italy has been united the various patriotic 
songs are seldom heard, and I only succeeded in ob- 
taining some of the less-known ones from the son of one 
of the volunteers of 1848, who had learnt words and 
tunes from his father. The following is one of them, 
of which he only knew one verse : — 




T i± 



-F— ^ 

^gfe ggEggEgE g 

V han giu - ra - to, li vi - di a Pont' 




I - da, Giu ca - la - ti dal mon - te e dal pia 




v h j te-fr-3— * 

V & J- ' — * 


L' han giu - ra - to, si strin - se la 




* 2 " j "- 

ma - no, Cit - ta - di - ni di cen - to cit 

— k — ^5 1 **^ 1 : — — — 



- ta, Ca - ra 

ta - lia, bel suol a - do - 


Italian Sketches. 

El P 



^JEjtt^ J 

- ra - to, Ra - se - re - na la tua fron-te addo-lo 



I —J-J-, 

- ra - ta, Co - mo, Brescia, Mi-lan-o e var - ca - to, e fra 


-*^ — s 

po - co a Ve - ne - zia si va. . . 

" L'han giurato, li vidi a Pont' Ida, 
Giu calati dal monte e dal piano. 
L'han giurato, si strinse la mano, 
Cittadini di cento citta ! 
Cara Italia, bel suol adorato, 
Raserena la tua fronte addolorata. 
Como, Brescia, Milano e varcato, 
E fra poco a Venezia si va." 

(" They have sworn at Pont' Ida, I saw them, 

The sons of the mountain and plain — 
They have sworn, their hands grasped as they pledged them, 

Five-score cities, brothers again ! 
Dear Italy, face of new gladness 

To the sons of thy love thou may'st show ; 
We have freed Como, Brescia, and Milan, 

And soon to free Venice we'll go ! ") 

At the Pergola, on the evening of the nth of Sep- 
tember, 1847, violent enthusiasm was roused by a very 
fine cantata, written by M. Mabellini, called Italia, or 
Sorrow and Hope. I have often seen veterans' eyes 


Popular Songs of Tuscany. 75 

dimmed with tears at the sound of those heart-stirring 
words and soul-moving music. It is printed, so I do not 
give it here. 

Besides the rispetto, the stomello, and the patriotic 
song, there is the eanzone, or song of less sharply denned 
character, but always local, of which, as I have already 
said, three or four new ones make their appearance every 
year. Should one of these happen to take the fancy of 
the public, it runs through Italy like wildfire. Now and 
then a Neapolitan song comes via Rome to Florence 
and all the country round, when it is nearly always 
slightly changed in rhythm, generally to its advantage ; 
but usually the songs are composed in and about the 
City of Flowers. They seldom last more than six 
months, and are then completely forgotten — so com- 
pletely, that after a few years a new tune is sure to be 
composed for any words that hit the public fancy. One 
of the Neapolitan songs just mentioned held undisputed 
sway in the streets of Florence and in the villages along 
the Arno for nearly a year : a case of almost unprece- 
dented popularity. I have no doubt that many of my 
readers will have heard the air ; indeed, it has, I believe, 
since its sudden spring into popularity, been arranged 
(i.e. spoilt) by a Neapolitan composer :. — 


Italian Sketches. 







Pa - lu - mel - la, zom-pa e vo - la, Sul- le 

"  h i 1 — — . s s - 




-*— *- 

brae - cie di Nen- na mi - - a Che taggio a 







a t rt 

-fc -- 

di - ce - re, che non mo mo - ro, W U Pa - lu - 

A (Passagallo.) 

if ^S^£^ £g=ppg 

mel - la, Pa - lu- mel-la, pen - sa - ci tu. . . 1 ra la 



j>-i — fe-fc 


la la la la la la la la la la la Tra la 


la la la la la la la la la la la la. 

1 ' Palumella, zompa e vola, 
Sulle braccie di Nenna mia. 
Che taggio a dicere, che non mo moro. 
Palumella, Palumella, pensaci tu. 

Tra la la. 

Io ne vengo da Palermo 
Pe trovar la Nenna mia, 

Popular Songs of Tuscany. 77 

Ma gli occhi lucidi son malandrini, 

M'hanno rubato, m'hanno rubato, lu cor a me." 

(" Woodpigeon, woodpigeon, up with thee — off with thee, 
Fly to the arms of my Nenna, my pet : 
Tell her the word I send — how still I'm true to her, 
Woodpigeon, woodpigeon, do not forget. 

" Soon I'll be back again, back from Palermo, 
To tend my own Nenna, the girl I love best ; 
Though those bright eyes of hers, thief that she is for it, 
Have stolen the heart of me clean from my breast ! ") 

About two years ago a song came out in Florence 
which had immense vogue, partly from its own beauty, 
and partly on account of the half-romantic, half-comic 
story attached to it — for the truth of which, however, 
I cannot vouch. It was reported that a well-known 
"cabby" of Florence, whose stand is at Santa Trinita, 
had fallen desperately in love with a Nubian or Abys- 
sinian girl, one of a batch sent over by the Khedive for 
education in Florence, and that he had written the fol- 
lowing song in her honour. His homage did not, how- 
ever, touch her heart, as she soon afterwards married an 
officer in the army. The cabman is a first-rate player 
on the guitar, and has a nephew who sings remarkably 
well, with a very sweet, high, tenor voice. Be the story 
true or false, The Queen of the Desert took the town by 
storm, and nothing else was heard from morning to 
night, and from night to morning. The beginning 


Italian Sketches. 

should be sung with fire and energy ; the end slower and 
much emphasized : — 


fi^^t^P§jg*f^ E# 

Fug-gia-mo nel de - ser 

to, Fug - gia-mo, a- 






man - te mi 

O - gni sen - tie - roea- 



- per 

to, Se tu ver - rai con 




r— N 

Se tu ver - rai con me, 


td^\J3ms m^£ 


tu ver - rai con me. . . . Fug - gia - mo, 

fefa= a =j 





per - che vit - ti - ma, Io res - te - rei con 







te, . 

Fug - gia - mo, per - che vit - ti 

Popular Songs of Tuscany. 







- ma, Io res - te 

con te. . 

Fuggiamo nel deserto, 
Fuggiamo, amante mia, 
Ogni sentiero e aperto, 
Se tu verrai con me {bis). 

Fuggiamo, perche vittima, 

Io resterei con te ! 

: Come barchetto errante 
Abbandonato al vento, 
Noi non avremo avanti 
Che un solo duce, il cor {bis). 
Sia tempio il firmamento, 
Sia nume, pace e amor. 

' II canto degli augelli 
Sia l'inno tuo nunziale, 
Un serto, su i capelli, 
Di rose io ti faro {bis). 

Regina del deserto 

Io ti saluter6 ! " 

1 Forth to the desert lonely, 
My loved one, let us flee : 

One road for us, one only, 

The road thou go'st with me : {bis) 

Away ! a willing victim, 
I'll give my life for thee. 

; Even as a boat careering 
Before the wind is blown ; 

No pilot for our steering, 

But two fond hearts alone {bis) ; 

Our church of Heaven's own rearing, 
Our god, Love, on his throne. 


Italian Sketches. 

" The birds thy bride-song singing, 
Shall chaunt from leafage green ; 

With rosebuds of my stringing 
I'll crown thy tresses' sheen {bis) : 

My homage to thee bringing, 
I'll hail thee Desert Queen.") 

The comic songs of Tuscany are sui generis. The 
airs are often very slight, and their charm entirely 
consists in the bright espiegle way of singing — or, I 
might almost say, reciting them. The bright eyes 
sparkle, and the mobile mouth is curved with laughter ; 
even the guitar seems to be animated with fun and 
merriment. This summer the comic song is a bitter 
complaint that Mariannina had jilted the singer, ending 
in an imperative request to pull his leg hard when he 
gets into the railway carriage and goes to Turin — utter 
nonsense, but jovial, rattling music. Comic songs are 
generally restricted to one new one a year. I have 
chosen the following, which was popular about four or 
five years ago, as a specimen, the air being prettier than 
the later ones : — 


Se ti pia 
Se ti pia 

ce 1' In - sa 
ce il ca - fe 

la - ti - na, 
col 1' o -vo, 




Vie -ni in cu - ci 
O - ra ti pro 

na, vie - ni in cu - ci 

vo, o - ra ti pro 

Popular Songs of Tuscany. 






- ceil 







sa - la - ti - na, 
fe col 1' o - vo, 

Vie -ni in cu - ci 
O - ra ti pro 







* ' v^^ 





pian - ge - re, 

no, no no no no no no no non 



pian-ge - re, 

No, no no no non pian - ge 








" Se ti piace 1' insalatina, 
Vieni in cucina ; te la dar6 — 
Ma no, non piangere ne sospirar. 

" Se ti piace '1 caffe col l'ovo, 
Ora ti provo se mi vuoi ben. 
Ma no, non piangere, ne sospirar." 

("If for salad you've a will, sir, 

Come in the kitchen and eat your fill, sir : 
Let's have no crying, no sighing, pray ! 


Italian Sketches. 

" If you've a fancy for coffee and eggs, sir, 
I'll soon feed your passion, i' fegs, sir- 
But let's have no crying, no sighing, pray.") 

And so the verses run through the whole round of 
cupboard-love's temptations which a clever cook can 
hold out to a hungry wooer. 

There are two other favourite comic songs— the first 
purely Tuscan, the second adapted from the Roman, 
and now popular in Tuscany — which admit of, and 
indeed Require infinite expression and archness in the 






m — w 



Mi son fat - to un ves - ti 





ti - no, mes - so 



si, pa-ga - to, no. 

E mi sen-to ti-ra-tadi 







die - tro, He, ra - gaz - zi - na, pa - ga - te mi un 


^- u 

po\ Vie-ni sta - se - ra,Do-ma-ni se - ra, Sa-ha-to 

0''0' w ■+ 

se - ra, Do-me- ni - ca, n6 ! E co - si s'in-gan-nal'a 

Popular Songs of Tuscany. 



; H a -^ 



g- -J 

man - te, Pri-ma di si, e poi di no ! 

Mi son fatto un vestitino, 

Messo si, pagato, n6 : 
E mi sento tirata di dietro, 
* He, ragazzina, pagate mi un poV 

* Vieni stasera, 
Domani sera, 

Sabato sera, 

Domenica, n6 ! ' . 
E cosi s'inganna l'amante, 

Prima di ' si,' e poi di ' no,' 

" Mi son fatto un capettino, 
(Giubettino, giacchetino.) 

{etc. , da capo, ) 

(* ' A duck of a dress I had ordered — 
Ordered it, yes — paid for it — no : 
When twitch, comes a pull at my jacket, 
And a ' Come, my girl, pay what you owe ! ' 
11 Call in the evening — 
Call in the morning ; 
Saturday evening — 
Sunday — no go ! 
*' And so we go cheating our lovers, 

First with a ' yes,' and then with a ' no ! ' " 

" A duck of a cape I had ordered," 
Jacket, overcoat, etc.) 

For the song may run through the whole contents of 
the female wardrobe. 

Here is a Neapolitan comic song Tuscanized : — 

8 4 

Italian Sketches. 

Con brio. 






--£— g: 

Quand' un uom' ha mess' i 

baf - - fi, 

^ aa ^^a i 

Ha bi-so-gnodi mu - lie - ra, Non c'e mo-do ne ma 


S fc AJ Ms=s 



Ma la fem-mi - na ci vn6. 

- me - ra, 






Ma le fern - mi- ne son tutt' am - fan - fa - ri, 

— J I «b_ *: 

So - no tut - t' u - no eu - lo 





E quan - no fan - no a - mo - re, 

Si lo 


~* I #-rJ 




fan - no per se spas - sar. Le fern - mi - ne son 





fan, fan, fan, fan, fan so- no tut-t'u- no cu - lo - re, E 






quan-no fan-no a- mo - re, Lo fan -no per se spas - sar. 

Popular Songs of Tuscany. 85 

" Quand' un uom' ha mess' i baffi, 
Ha bisogno di muliera : 

Non c'e modo ne maniera, 

Ma la femmina ci vuo. 
Ma le femmine son tutt' amfanfari — 

Sono tutt'uno culore ; 

E quanno fanno amore, 
Si lo fanno per se spassar — 

Le femmine son fan — fan — fan — fan — 
Sono tutt', etc. (da capo.) " 

(" When a youngster grows his whiskers, 

'Tis women he must care for : 

Without a why or wherefore 

He must be a lady's man ! 
But the women they are humbugs ; 

They're all bread of one baking : 

And when love they are making, 

They make it all for fun ! 
The women are hum — hum — hum — hum — 

They're all bread of one baking.") (etc., da capo.) 

But enough of attempts to translate the untranslatable. 
After all has been done that can be done by help of the 
most literal equivalent of the words, and most careful 
noting of the music, none but those who have lived 
among the Tuscan people can know what the Tuscan 
popular songs really are. Not till we hear them from 
Tuscan lips, to the simple accompaniment of the guitar, 
and perhaps a flute, in the open air, under the serene 
blue sky of evening, or the cloudless Tuscan moon, 
amidst the perfume of the lemon and growing grapes, 
and, above all, with the sweet, spontaneous, unaffected 

86 Italian Sketches. 

Italian singing, like the singing of birds, so effortless it 
sounds and so irrepressible, can we really appreciate the 
charm of these songs — their simple pathos and old-world 
purity, their innocent playfulness, their shrewd humour, 
and their depths of sweet and sincere feeling. 



A characteristic portion of old Florence will soon be 
a thing of the past ; the Ghetto, where but a few months 
ago no decent person could enter without a guardian- 
angel in the shape of a policeman, stands empty and 
deserted, doomed to disappear like the ancient city walls. 
Out of the gay streets radiant with sunshine, the shops 
full of carnival finery, masks, dominoes, bonbons, and 
bouquets, we passed from the .Piazza dell' Olio, under 
a large archway, and found ourselves in the Piazza della 
Fraternita. Tall and dark, the houses towered above 
us, doorless and windowless ; on one side was a fine iron 
balcony, a relic of former splendour, and over a doorway, 
built of blocks of stone in the fashion of the fourteenth 
century, was a small shield with the Medici arms and 
scrittojo (counting-house) carved underneath. This was 
one of the houses of that great family before they be- 
came the rulers of their native city. 

From the silent, sad square we dived into the Chiasso 
del Piovano, a narrow alley leading to a wee courtyard 
with dingy cells all round, into which one would not put 

88 Italian Sketches. 

a dog to sleep ; yet in some of these horrible holes two 
and even three families had been crowded together. Up 
a narrow staircase, lit by small apertures through which 
the brilliant rays of the sun illuminated patches of the 
dirty walls, causing the rest to appear still more dark and 
grim, we followed our guide, and at length found our- 
selves in a charming room, frescoed with garlands of 
vines and dancing bacchante; traces of gilding still 
shone on the ceiling, and it was like an oasis of gaiety 
and life in the midst of the abandoned squalor around. 
A hole had been knocked in the wall, and we wandered 
through a labyrinth of rooms, narrow passages, and stair- 
cases, until we came to a fine doorway with a Hebrew 
inscription above, which had been the Jewish school. 
With the aid of matches and a lantern we went in single 
file down a narrow, tortuous lane on the first floor, with 
street-doors up two or more steps opening out of it, and 
at last down a flight of steps into a square, with a large, 
double-handled pump in the centre. This is the Piazza 
della Fontana, surrounded with what once were palaces 
of the Della Tosa and Tosinghi families; grim and 
mournful-looking, as though lamenting their long-lost 
splendour. Nine stories high they tower above one, 
shutting out sun and wind, and the impression of utter 
desolation and stillness given by the empty embrasures 
of the windows and doors was almost oppressive. 

A good staircase led up to a suite of fine rooms, whose 

The Ghetto of Florence. 89 

small balconies looked down on the Mercato Vecchio, 
the old market-place, which in the Longobard time was 
called "Foro del Re" (Forum of the King) and after- 
wards surrounded with the palaces and towers of the great 
Florentine families. After the battle of Monteaperti in 
1260, the Ghibellines expelled the Guelphs from Florence, 
and destroyed the great palace and tower of the 
Tosinghi, two palaces and towers of the Delia Tosa, a 
palace belonging to a son of Ugo dei Medici, and many 

Retracing our steps, we crossed the Piazza della 
Fontana, and mounting a narrow flight of stairs, found 
ourselves in a large, vaulted room, with innumerable 
passages leading in every direction. A few broad steps 
led into the Synagogue, a lofty, finely proportioned room, 
with a double row of latticed galleries, whence the 
Jewesses used to hear service ; the ceiling was in ruins, 
and the whole place dismantled. Descending by a narrow 
back staircase, we came into a small courtyard made 
more gloomy by overhanging passages and small rooms 
built high above. The black walls to our left was one of 
the palaces of the Brunelleschi, that great family who 
at one time almost ruled Florence, and held vast posses- 
sions in and near the city. The tall, narrow doorway 
of the twelfth century had been bricked up, and other 
openings made, which led into pitch-dark, vaulted rooms, 
damp, and covered with moss and dirt. I groped up 

go Italian Sketches. 

a narrow staircase, and, from a low, vaulted room like a 
prison, looked out of a small window into the busy 
Piazza dei Brunelleschi, where once stood the ancient 
church of San Leo, suppressed some ninety years ago. 
The little square is now the chief market for chestnuts, 
and was full of life and gaiety. A strange contrast to 
the dismal place we were in. Whole families had lived 
in these dark rooms, and with the help of the lantern 
we could distinguish in one or two corners the few 
bricks that had served as fireplaces. Over one of 
the doors outside, some wag had written under a half- 
effaced coat of arms : Lasciate ogni speranza, voi che 
^titrate. Sad words, well suited to the unhappy Jews 
in old times. 

Just opposite the old Brunelleschi Palace, under an 
overhanging passage sustained by three slender stone 
columns, was a well-known lodging-house, l'Androne, 
frequented by the very scum of Florence. A bed cost 
a halfpenny, and every evening the police came at sun- 
down to see that the ticket-of-leave men were 'all in. 
Whenever a robbery occurred in Florence, l'Androne 
was surrounded and all its inmates arrested, a proceeding 
which seldom failed to attain the object of detecting the 

In 1430 the Priors of Florence, to counteract the 
excessive usury of the Florentine bankers, who charged 
from 30 to 40 per cent., permitted the Jews to settle in 

The Ghetto of Florence. 91 

Florence under stringent rules, one of which was that 
they were not to lend money at more than four danarr per 
lira a month, or 10 per cent. ; only a limited number were 
permitted inside the city walls, and all were to live in a 
small street then called Chiasso dei Rammaghianti, on 
the opposite side of the river, which to this day preserves 
the name then given of Via de' Guidei. 

In 1439 tne Signory ordered that the Jews were to 
wear a yellow badge, and only seventy were allowed to 
live in Florence ; but this law fell into abeyance, and in 
1495 the patrimony of this persecuted race amounted to 
eleven millions of florins,, which raised such an outcry 
among the people that the Signory was forced to banish 
them. Four years later the sentence was rescinded, 
"on payment of two hundred thousand florins as a fine 
for the wickedness of the Hebrews." 

Bianca Cappello obtained various Oriental perfumes, 
salves, and love-philters from the Jews, and in return 
persuaded the Grand Duke Francis to repeal several 
barbarous, laws, and to declare them free to exercise 
usury on payment of four scudi a head to the treasury. 

Our guide now proposed to take us up the tower of 
one of the old palaces of the Delia Tosa family. So 
rich and powerful were they that Corso Donatio when he 
attempted to seize the supreme power in Florence, did 
not hesitate to force his beautiful sister,. Piccarda, to quit 
the convent of Sta. Chiara, and marry Rossellina Delia 

92 Italian Sketches. 

Tosa. Falling on her knees after the celebration of the 
marriage-service, she prayed to be pardoned for thus 
involuntarily breaking her vows, and for release from the 
husband she hated. Incontinently she was smitten 
with a deadly illness, and soon afterwards died. Dante 
thus mentions the unfortunate and lovely Piccarda in the 
" Paradiso." 

" Ma riconoscerai ch'io son Piccarda, 

Che posta qui con questi altri beati, 

Beata son nella spera piu tarda. 

" Uomini poi a mal piu che a bene usi, 

Fuor mi rapiron della dolce chiostra : 

Dio lo si sa qual poi mia vita fusi." 

(" . . . but thou wilt know 

Piccarda, in the tardiest sphere thus placed, 
There 'mid these other blessed also blest. 
" Thereafter men, for ill than good more apt, 
Forth snatch'd me from the pleasant cloisters pale. 
God knows how, after that, my life was framed.") 

We began a weary climb, resting now and then in the 
adjacent rooms, whence we got enchanting peeps of the 
City of Flowers. At length we reached the top — a room 
positively frescoed with filth, out of which opened a 
terrace to the south, and another to the east. It made one 
dizzy to gaze down on the red-tiled roofs, stained deep 
orange, bright yellow, brown, and green, with various 
lichens. To our left, far below, was San Giovanni, the 

The Ghetto of Florence. 93 

baptistry which stood there before the Longobards in- 
vaded Italy, and was the mother-church of the diocese of 
Florence. The cupola loomed dark against the hill of 
Fiesole, on whose summit we could distinguish the dark 
lines of the ancient Etruscan walls. A mass of gorgeous 
colour, the Duomo glistened and glowed in the sunshine, 
and the lovely Campanile of Giotto, so elegant, so severe, 
so slight, and yet so strong, shot up into the blue 
sky as though conscious of, and rejoicing in, its own 
beauty. In front, the tower of the Bargello and the 
bell-towers of the Badia and of Sta. Croce stood 
out black against the snow-covered mountains of Val- 
lombrosa, and to the right Or San Michele rose, 
square, like a fortress, its dark walls lit up by the 
brilliant white of the tall, carved, marble windows. 
From the southern terrace we looked straight upon the 
fortress of Belvedere, standing out against the sky, 
surrounded with cypresses and ilexes. To the left the 
graceful tower of the Signoria Palace seemed to hang in 
the blue air, and far, far below us was the Mercato 
Vecchio, full of life, bright with the yellow and red 
handkerchiefs the women wear on their heads, and 
crowded with ambulant pedlars, whose small carts were 
covered with gay scarves and woollen wraps, toys and 
sweetmeats. The joyous noise of the crowd below 
came up to us like a confused murmur, contrasting 
vividly with the empty, abandoned Ghetto, in which we 

94 Italian Sketches. 

were the only living creatures. The Loggia del Pesce, 
built by Vasari in 1598, was at our feet, with Delia 
Robbias bas-reliefs of various fishes ; and on the opposite 
side of the market-place stood the palace of the Amieri, 
that great Ghibelline family, who led the van in all the 
internecine wars. At the left-hand corner of the market- 
place is an ancient tabernacle, grimy with age and smoke, 
which marks the spot where Pier da Verona (St. Peter 
Martyr) preached against the heresy of the Paterini. A 
small oratory was afterwards built there, where Mass was 
celebrated until 1785, when it was suppressed and turned 
into a shop, whose proprietor is, however, bound to keep 
a lamp burning before the faded fresco in the tabernacle. 
Almost opposite stood the well-known column of the 
market-place, erected in 1431. Donatello sculptured a 
statue of Abundance for the summit, which fell down in 
r72i, and was dashed to atoms. A new one was made 
by Foggini in the following year, which has just been 
removed with the column, preparatory to the destruction 
of the Ghetto and of the old market. 

The old palace, built in 1280 by Foglia d' Amiero 
degli Amieri, and ornamented with leaves, in allusion to 
his name, Foglia (leaf), is now inhabited by the poorest 
class j its once proud tower has been cut down, and is 
now the abode of a pigeon-fancier. Here lived the 
lovely Ginevra degli Amieri, whose father forced her 
to give up her true-love, a Rondinelli, and marry an 

The Ghetto of Florence. 95 

Agolanti. Ginevra fell ill during the plague, and was 
buried while in a syncope in the family sepulchre in the 
cathedral. Waking up in the middle of the night, she 
managed, after superhuman efforts, to raise the slab of 
her tomb, and trailing her long grave-clothes behind her, 
tottered to the door of her husband's house and knocked. 
Reviled as an evil spirit, she went to the Amieri Palace, 
praying her mother for admittance. The same thing 
occurred here ; so, as a last resource, she dragged herself 
to the house of her old love, who opened wide the doors, 
and caught her fainting to his heart. The Priors of 
Justice decided that all ties binding her to Agolanti were 
severed, and that she was free to marry the man she 
loved. The street leading from the cathedral to the 
Agolanti Palace is still called Via della Morta, in 
memory of " La Bella Ginevra." 

Below us to the right lay a dark mass of old palaces, 
narrow alleys, small courtyards, and miserable hovels. 
Tradition says that here was the Campidoglio, described 
by Villani as a Roman fortress of great strength and 
beauty, surrounded by strong walls and a moat, fed by 
the Arno. Here stood the ancient church of Sta. Maria 
in Campidoglio, suppressed and destroyed a century ago ; 
near by, in the Via degli Strozzi, one can still see the 
steps leading up to the door of the ancient church of 
S. Pier Buonconsiglio, now a ribbon manufactory. Nearly 
opposite stands the Delia Luna Palace, its original two 

96 Italian Sketches. 

stories cut up into four or five, and inhabited by poor 
people. The popular name, Palazzo della Cavolaia (of 
the cabbage-woman), refers to a fable that, when Totila 
invaded Florence, he invited the chief men of the city to 
come and confer with him in the Campidoglio. A poor 
woman, who sold herbs and vegetables outside, noticed 
that many went in, but none came out ; so she warned a 
large party who were approaching, and thus saved their 
lives. They rewarded her well for her timely counsel, 
and founded a Mass for the repose of her soul. To this 
day a bell, which rings near here at sunset, is called by 
the common people, La campana della cavolaia (the 
bell of the cabbage-woman). The old palace seemed 
doomed to be connected with tales of blood. It originally 
belonged to the Manfredi, a Ghibelline family, who were 
impoverished and finally destroyed in the party wars. 
Then the Torelli of Fermo had it, and Lelio Torelli, 
the handsome and winning page of Cosmo I., gained 
the love of the beautiful and dissolute Isabella, his 
master's daughter, who was married to Paolo Giordano 
Orsini, Duke of Bracciano. When the duke left Florence, 
he confided his wife to the care of his cousin, Troilo 
Orsini, who fell desperately in love with her, and, mad 
with jealousy, had Lelio Torelli stabbed to death beneath 
a tabernacle close by. As is well known, Isabella was 
soon afterwards strangled by her husband at his villa of 
Cerreto, during a hunting-party he gave in her honour. 

The Ghetto of Florence. 97 

The palace then passed into the possession of the Delia 
Luna; and Niccolo, the last of his race, was the friend 
and boon companion of Cardinal Giovan Carlo de' 
Medici, who, from a captain in the guards, had become 
a cardinal, and whose manners and morals certainly 
savoured more of the camp than of the cloister. Both 
fell victims to the charms of Margherita da Cepparello, 
and her preference for the handsome young Niccolo 
della Luna turned the friendship of the cardinal into 
deadly hatred. One morning, after a brilliant fete given 
by him in the Giardino de' Semplici, the lifeless body 
of the luckless and too-fascinating Niccolo was found 
in the large marble fountain, where to this day the 
nympheas reflect their loveliness, and the dragon-flies 
glint and glisten above them in the sunlight. 

Next door is the Palazzo Vecchietti, whose internal 
walls certainly look massive enough to be of Roman 
origin. This family was anciently called Vecchi, and 
their simple habits are praised by Dante. 

" E vide quel de Nerli e quel del Vecchio 
Esser contend alia pelle scoverta ; 
E le sue donne al fuso e al pennecchio." * 

Many illustrious men did they give to Florence — 
Vanni di Jacopo Vecchietti, a famous captain in the 

* ". . . The sons I saw 

Of Nerli and of Vecchio, well content, 

"With unrobed jerkin, and their good dames handling 

The spindle and the flax. ..." 


98 Italian Sketches. 

fourteenth century ; Marsilio, who was always employed 
as an ambassador when prudence and foresight was 
necessary j Giovan Battista, the man of science, and 
intimate friend of Gregory XIII. , and of Philip II. of 
Spain. An Oriental scholar and a great traveller, he was 
taken prisoner in Palestine, and sold as a slave; his 
brother, after long search, ransomed him. Then there 
was Bernardo Vecchietti, a great patron of the arts j the 
first works of John of Bologna were done for him, and 
the young sculptor lived much in his house. The quaint 
little satyr or devil still existing at the angle of the 
palace is one of John of Bologna's most charming works. 
This corner is called " Canto de' Diavoli '• (Corner of the 
Devil's), from an old tradition that a fearful black horse 
and demons of hideous shape had flown away when 
Peter Martyr preached against the heresy of the Paterini 
from a pulpit hard by. Of the ancient church, San 
Donato de' Vecchietti, nothing remains but a small side 
door; the tower belonging to the palace has been cut 
down, but still retains its fine coat of arms with five 
ermines, commonly supposed to be rats ; and which gave 
rise to the popular Florentine saying, when a person 
shows signs of age, Tu stai prendendo Varme dei cinque 
topi (You are assuming the coat of arms with the five 
rats), a pun on the name " Vecchio," which means old. 

Slowly descending from the high tower, we passed 
down some tortuous narrow alleys near where tradition 

The Ghetto of Florence. 99 

says that the shop of Domenico di Giovanni, surnamed 
" Burchiello," existed : the barber and popular poet of 
1408, who gave his name to the facetious style of poetry 
he invented. Monsignore Leonardo Dati, himself a 
poet, says of him : — 

"Burchius qui nihil est, cantu tamen allicite omnes, 
esto parasitus vatibus Etrurise." 

We conjured up all the gay company that was wont to 
assemble and listen to the sallies of the barber-poet : 
Leon Battista Alberti, Davanzati, Niccolo Urbinate, 
Luca Delia Robbia, and Filippo Brunnelesco, who built 
the dome of the cathedral. Antonio del Pollajolo lived 
close by in a house belonging to the Agli; this great 
painter, enameller, and goldsmith descended from a 
family of pollajoli (poultry sellers), whose real name had 
been merged in that of their calling. Further on we 
passed what had been the old hostelry of " Mala cucina " 
(bad cooking), and a few turns more brought us to one 
called "Male carne" (bad meat); most uninviting 
names, but famous in the annals of this part of Florence, 
which only became the Ghetto, or habitation of the 
Jews, in 157 1. Cosmo I., at the instigation of Pope 
Paul IV., then charged his architect, Bernardo Buon- 
talenti, to re-model the centre of the town in such a way 
that the Jews should be entirely separated from the rest 
of the citizens. The name Ghetto is from the Hebrew 
" Ghet," signifying division, or separation ; and at nine 

ico Italian Sketches. 

every night the keys of the gates of the Ghetto were 
taken to the Signory, so that none could pass in or out. 
Had a fire broken out, the unhappy Jews would have 
been burnt to death like rats in a hole. 

Returning to the abandoned Piazza della Fraternita, 
whence we had started, we passed under the deep 
shadow of the arch out again into the bright streets and 
the sunshine, one of our party aptly quoting : — 

" Fair sir, you spit on me on Wednesday last ; 
You spurn'd me such a day ; another time 
You call'd me dog ; and for these courtesies 
I'll lend you thus much moneys." 


In the lower Val d'Arno, overlooking the fruitful plain 
which extends from Florence to Empoli, stands an old 
villa, a long, low, roomy house, anciently belonging to 
the Arte della Lana, whose lamb bearing a banner 
over one shoulder is sculptured on various parts of its 
walls. In the twelfth century it was only a roof resting 
on high arches for drying the wool; then our host's 
ancestors bought it, filled up the arches, built a first- 
floor, and gradually added wing after wing. The rooms 
are large and lofty, and the staircase very handsome. 
The ceiling of one of the rooms is frescoed with 
Raphaelesque designs like the loggia in the Vatican. 
The house is full of old furniture, old china, and various 
Roman and Etruscan statues, and a splendid sarco- 
phagus found on the property, for we are near Signa,. 
the old Signa Romanorum of the legions. The villa is 
slightly raised above the plain, and about two miles 
from the Arno, opposite Monte Morello, the weather- 
teller of all the country round, as the old proverb says : — 

Italian Sketches. 

<■ o r ,„ , «tg fc " a Morello 
V'e il cappello, 
Non uscir 
Senza l'ombrello. " * 

To the left, on the opposite side of the Arno, lies the 
town of Prato and the beautiful line of hills behind it, 
and further up the valley is Pistoja, and the Apennines 
in the distance. To the right we see Florence with its 
stately duomo and campanile, and in the background the 
hills of Vallombrosa. Behind the villa is a large garden, 
all the walks of which are shaded with pergole (vines 
on trellises), and from thence the ground slopes up to 
vineyards and olive-groves, and to the wooded hills from 
the summit of which on a clear day one can discern the 
sea near Leghorn, some sixty miles off. 

In this pleasant and picturesque old [mansion were 
assembled a joyous company, mixed Italian and Eng- 
lish, for the vintage of 1874. To the advent of the 
forestieri was ascribed by the courteous contadini the 
splendid yield of grapes, better than they had been 
for twenty-six years, t On a fine September morning we 

* "IfonMorello 
There is the cap, 
Don't go out 
Without your umbrella. " 

f That is to say, since the outbreak of the iodiura. To give some 
idea of the virulence of the disease, the farms on this estate, though 
two less in number, used to produce at least two thousand barile of 
wine ; and in this, an exceptional year, the yield was only one 

Vint aging in Tuscany. 103 

started, Italian and English, men and women, masters 
and mistresses, and servants laden with innumerable 
baskets, big and little, each armed with a rough pair of 
scissors, and our padrona leading the way, with her 
guitar, pouring out as she went an endless flow of stor- 
nelli, rispetti, and canzoni, in which Tuscany is as rich 
as in any of the country products, maize or figs, 
pumpkins or tomatoes, oil or wine, or grain, the Italians 
amongst us improvising words to the well-known airs. 
The vintage is always a happy time ; every one works 
with a will, and is contented and light-hearted. As 
Modesto, one of our men, said, " Buon vino fa buon 
sangue " (Good wine makes good blood). 

The old fattore (bailiff), who had retired from all 
active work on the estate, except the management of his 
especial pets, the vineyards alia francese (vines cut 
low in the French fashion, not allowed to straggle from 
tree to tree as is the Tuscan usage), was very great on 
this occasion. He pointed out trees he had planted, 
and works he had done, fifty years ago, before the 
padrone was born. The dear old man was now 
seventy-eight, and as brisk and alert as any of us ; with 
an eye still bright, and his keen, humorous face as full 
of vivacity as the youngest. He was full of old proverbs 

thousand one hundred. One year, when the disease was at its 
height, they had five barile of stuff resembling mud ! A barile holds 
fifty litres. 

to* Italian Sketches. 

and wise sayings, like all peasants of the Casentino, 
his native region, about twenty miles south-west of 
Florence ; and looked sharply after all our workmen to 
see that each duly did the picking of his row of vines. 
He was struck with great admiration at the way in which 
Englishmen, and women too, worked, and quite con- 
cerned for the repeated drenchings in perspiration of a 
strenuous old gentleman of the party, remarking, gravely, 
" Questo povero Signor Antonio ! ma suda troppo ! " 
(This poor Mr. Tom, he sweats too much). He chuckled 
when we got hot and red under the burning sun, grace- 
fully putting it to the ladies, " II sole d? Italia vi ha baciato." 
(The sun of Italy has kissed you.) By eleven we were 
thoroughly tired, and went to rest under the scanty shade 
of the olives and fig-trees with our guitar. One of the 
young peasants had lost his grandfather in Russia with 
Napoleon L, and we called him up, and told him to 
sing about the great general. He sung to a favourite 
stornello air : — 

" Guarda, Napoleon, quello che fai ; 
La meglio gioventu tutta la vuoi, 
E le ragazze te le friggerai. 

" Napoleon, fa le cose giuste, 
Falla la coscrizion delle ragazze, 
Piglia le belle, e lasciar star le brutte. 

" Napoleon, te ne pentirai ! 

La meglio gioventu tutta la vuoi ; 
Delia vecchiaia, che te ne farai. 


" Napoleon, non ti stimar guerriero — 
A Mosca lo troveresti l'osso duro, 
All' isola dell' Elba prigioniero." 

(" While you go our youths collecting, 
All our pretty girls neglecting, 
Pause, Napoleon, and beware. 

" Deal more justly with all classes, 
Make conscription of the lasses — 
Leave the plain and choose the fair. 

" Napoleon, if with ruthless hand, 
Of its flower you mow the land : 
In old age you'll pay it dear. 

" Boast not, tyrant, of your glory, 
Moscow's plains were grim and gory, 
Elba was a prison drear.") 

Twelve o'clock brought a welcome arrival — lunch from 
the villa. Grape-picking is a capital sharpener of the 
appetite. We were soon reclining — sub tegmine fagi — 
round a steaming dish of risotto con funghi, and a 
knightly sirloin of roast beef, which would have done 
honour to old England. A big fiasco (a large bottle 
bound round with reeds or straw, and holding three 
ordinary bottles) of last year's red wine was soon 
emptied, well-tempered, I should say, with water from 
the neighbouring well. At a little distance the labourers 
in the vineyard were enjoying the unwonted luxury of 
a big wooden bowl full of white beans crowned with 
pofyette, little sausages of minced meat and rice. 

106 Italian Sketches. 

We first gathered all the white grapes. These were 
transferred from our small baskets to big ones, placed 
at the end of each row of vines. These bigger baskets 
were then carried on men's backs to the villa, where the 
grapes were laid out to dry in one of the towers, on 
stoje, great trays made of canes. Here they are 
exposed to sun and air for some weeks, when they 
are used for making the vin 1 santo. After the white 
grapes were gathered, we fell to on the black, of the 
choice kinds, the "San Giovese," the "Aleatico," the 
" Colorino," and the " Occhio di Pernice." These also 
were destined to be exposed on stoje in . the same 
manner. They are used as govemo, that is to say, 
when the new wine is racked for the first time these 
choice black grapes are put in, so as to cause another 
fermentation ; they at once deepen the colour and make 
it clear. 

How melancholy the vines looked stripped of their 
grapes ! The glorious white and golden, and pink and 
deep red bunches had given a beauty to the land- 
scape which one did not realize until they were gone, 
and the poor vines stood bare. In our discussions 
about the progress of our work, the time of day often 
came in question. The old fattore was very anxious 
to know how we in England knew the hour, as he had 
heard that our churches did not ring the Ave Maria 
at midday or in the evening. He had, doubtless, a 

Vint aging in Tuscany. 107 

settled conviction that we were little better than heathens, 
but was too polite to say so right out. We explained 
that we had abundance of both big clocks and little 
watches; but he answered, " Ma che" (with a horizontal 
wave of the hand), " I have a watch too. I set it by the 
Ave Maria and hardly ever use it. At mid-day, when 
the Ave Maria rings, we know we are to eat; and 
when we hear it at sundown, twenty-four o'clock, as we 
say here, we leave off work ; and at one o'clock of night 
(an hour after sunset) it rings again so that we may 
remember our dead and say an Ave for them." All 
our arguments to prove that clocks and watches might 
be good substitutes for the Ave Maria were useless, 
and he remained stanch to his idea that England must 
be a wretched place without the Ave Maria — "Si 
deve star male in Inghilterra senza VAve Maria." 

At last the beautiful great white oxen, with their large, 
soft, black eyes, and with tassels of red and yellow 
worsted dangling about the roots of their horns and 
over their cool moist noses, came to the edge of the 
vineyard, drawing a large vat (tino) fixed on the cart. 
Into this all the remaining grapes were thrown. A 
handsome lad of sixteen, after tucking up his trousers 
and washing his feet in a bucket of water drawn from 
the well close by, jumped atop of the vat and lustily 
stamped down the contents, singing as he plied his 
purple-stained feet : — 

108 Italian Sketches. 

" Bella bellina, chi vi ha fatto gli occhi? 
Che ve gli ha fatti tanto innamorati ? 
Da letto levereste gli ammalati, 
Di sotto terra levereste i morti. 
Tanto valore e tanta valoranza ! 
Vostri begli occhi son la mia speranza." 

(" My lovely charmer, who hath made thine eyes, 
That fill our bosoms with such ecstasies ? 
Their glance would draw the sick man from his bed, 
Or haply pierce the tomb and raise the dead. 
Oh ! my sweet love, thy beauty and thy worth, 
Are all my hope and all my joy on earth.") 

Of such tender sentiment and musical sound are the 
songs of the Tuscan "roughs." These songs are most 
of them the composition, both words and airs, of the 
peasants and artisans who sing them. The hills round 
Pistoja and the streets of Florence ring with an ever- 
renewed outpour of such sweet and simple song. 

The padrone prides himself much on his fine breed 
of oxen, and told us the old Tuscan proverb, Chi ha 
carro e buoi, fa bene i fatti suoi (Whoso has cart 
and oxen does good business). When the last load 
of grapes was carted off we returned to the villa, where 
we found all hands busy in the great courtyard of the 
fattoria* on one side of the villa, emptying the 
grapes and must out of the vats with wooden bigoncie, 
high wooden pails without handles. These are carried 

* The fattoria comprehends the farm-buildings, cellars, granaries, 
bailiffs dwellings, etc., attached to a villa, just as in the Roman 
times the "Villa Rustica " was attached to the " Villa Urbana." 

Vint aging in Tuscany. 109 

on men's shoulders, and their contents poured into 
immense vats {tint) ranged all round the courtyard 
under covered arcades. In our wine-shed {tinaia) there 
are about fifty of these, containing from five to fifty 
butts each, besides three large square reservoirs of stone 
each holding three hundred barrels. The bubbling and 
boiling of the fermenting wine fills the air, and the 
smell is almost strong enough to get drunk upon. The 
men often do get tipsy, if they remain too long treading 
the grapes, or drawing off the new wine. But here it 
is an article of faith that the perfume of the must is the 
best medicine, and people bring weakly children to tread 
the grapes and remain in the tinaia to breathe the 
fume-laden air and eat of the fresh fruit ; for at vintage- 
time no peasant or padrone refuses grapes to any one 
who asks. They say that // btton Dio has given them 
plenty, and why should they in their turn not give to 
those who have nothing? I suppose this universal 
readiness to give is one reason why there is so little 
stealing here. You see vines full of fruit close to the 
roads, and quite unprotected by any sort of fence, and 
yet no one of the country-side ever takes them. There 
are, it is true, certain ntalfamati villages, whose in- 
habitants have the reputation of thieves, and against 
these, and pilferers from the large towns, the vineyards 
are guarded by men armed with guns, with which they 
keep popping the night through. At times you see 

no Italian Sketches. 

twenty or thirty poor people standing quietly looking 
on, until called up to receive their dole of grapes, with 
which they go away happy, with their graceful "Dio ve 
ne renda merito" At home they will mix water with 
the must they squeeze out of their basket or apronful 
of such ungrudged gifts, and make mezzo vino, or 
acquarello (water and wine fermented together), for 
the winter. The same thing is done on a large scale 
at many fattorie. This mixture of wine and water is 
distributed to the poor in winter, and is the common 
drink of the workmen about the villa. After the first 
good wine is drawn off from the vats, the vinaccia 
(skins, grape-stones, and stalks) is put into the press, 
and the second wine pressed out. This is good, but 
considerably rougher, from the larger amount of tannin, 
due to the skins and stalks, than that which is drawn 
from off the vats after fermentation without any agency 
of the press. After passing through the press, the clots 
of vinaccia are again put into the vats, and water is 
poured upon them. In eight or ten days a fresh fer- 
mentation takes place, and the vinaccia is once more 
pressed in the wine-press. This gives mezzo vino, or 
acquarello (half-wine), not at all bad, but of course 
of insufficient body to keep through the summer. For 
this there is no want of demand at the villa. Besides 
the rations of the workpeople, there are the poveri 
del buon Dio. In Tuscany there are no almshouses or 

Vint aging in Tuscany. 

poorhouses, save in the chief towns. Most villas have 
one or two days in the week when alms are distributed 
to all who come and ask. Here the gathering of poor 
occurs every Monday and Thursday, at ten in the morn- 
ing. A hunch of bread, a glass of half-wine, and five 
centimes are doled out to every applicant, and on 
Christmas Day any one who brings a fiasco has it filled 
with mezzo-vino, and gets half a loaf of bread and half 
a pound of uncooked meat. Such has been the custom, 
I am told, at this villa, for many hundred years. 

Our happy holiday vintaging lasted for five days, and 
then we went to help the vintaging of one of the con- 
tadini of the padrone. This family had been on the 
estate for two hundred and eighty years. All their vines 
were trained Tuscan fashion on maples, and we had the 
help of ladders and steps to gather the grapes. Half 
the grapes, and indeed half of all the produce of the 
land — grain, pumpkins, flax, fruit, or wine, belongs to the 
padrone, who pays all the taxes and buys the cattle. 
The contadino pays no rent for his house, which the 
padrone keeps in repair. The peasant gives the labour 
and the master finds the capital. 

This is, in rough outline, the system of mezzeria or 
metayer (half and half) tenure, still universal in Tus- 
cany. Like all human things, it has two sides, and may 
be condemned as the most backward, or defended as 
the most patriarchal and wholesome of systems, binding 

Italian Sketches. 

landlord and tenant in the bond of an obviously 
common interest, and encouraging the closest and most 
familiar relations between the two. When the land- 
lord is intelligent, active, and judicious, he may become 
a centre of enlightenment and improvement to his 
tenantry; but all his attempts must be made with the 
most cautious discretion, or he will infallibly frighten, 
and perhaps alienate, his tenantry, who are thorough 
Conservatives, and love stare super antiquas vias. Thus 
the best commentary on the " Georgics " is still agricul- 
ture in action in Tuscany, a passing peep into one 
of whose most pleasing chapters has been attempted in 
this paper. 


" La prima oliva e oro, la seconda argento, la terza non 
val niente" (The first olive is golden, the second silver, 
the third is worthless). Thus said the old contadino 
Bencino, quoting a Tuscan proverb, on a splendid, late 
November morning, whilst carefully gathering the olives 
into a queer wicker-basket which hooked into his belt. 
This basket was like a half-moon, and about three- 
quarters of a foot deep; it fitted close to Bencino's 
waist, and did not impede his movements, or shake the 
precious fruit and bruise them. 

We had driven out from Florence to a faltoria or 
large farm, in the lower Val d'Arno, to see the process of 
oil-making ; as our host said, " real oil, not the fabricated 
stuff you poor people in England are used to. You 
shall see the olives squeezed, and taste the virgin oil." 
We made rather a face at this proposal ; but the beauty 
of the country soon drove all disagreeable ideas out of 
our heads. 

After a lunch at the villa, an ancient and original 
place, with enough old furniture and old china in it to 


ii 4 Italian Sketches. 

gladden the hearts of a dozen bric-a-brac hunters, we 
walked two miles through the woods, up to the podere 
(farm) of Bencino, one of the contadini, on the top of a 
hill. The view was astounding. Florence lay to the 
right, at our feet, the dark cupolas looming out grandly 
against the snow-covered hills of Vallombrosa, which 
rose behind the bright city. In front was the fruitful 
valley of the Arno, with glimpses of the river here and 
there, glistening like silver, and the slender, leafless 
branches of the willow glowing scarlet and orange as they 
tossed in the breeze. The old battlemented walls of 
Lastra-a-Signa looked stern and weather-beaten, as 
though still frowning defiance to the enemies of Florence. 
The Pisans, with the help of English free-lances, pillaged 
and burnt the old place in 1365, and Galeazzo Visconti 
again in 1397. Lastra-a-Signa shared the fate of Florence 
in 1529, and after a gallant defence fell into the hands 
of the Spaniards, under the Prince of Orange, who 
committed such atrocities that the peasants still scare 
their naughty children with the threat of giving them to 
the Spaniards; and an old Tuscan proverb says, E 
meglio stare al bosco e mangiar pignoli, che stare in 
Castello con gli Spagnoli (Better to live in the wood 
and eat stone-pine nuts, than in a castle with the 
Spaniards). Monte Morello and Monte Ferrato rose 
behind, while the villas dotted here and there on the 
dark hillsides gleamed out white in the brilliant sun- 

Oil-making in Tuscany. u$ 

shine. The picturesque little town of Prato seemed 
quite close, instead of being twelve miles away, and we 
could plainly distinguish the beautiful marble cathedral, 
in which Filippo Lippi worked so well, and inspired his 
brush with the lovely face of Lucrezia Buti, the young 
nun who left her cloister at Prato to follow the smooth- 
tongued painter. In the far distance we could see the 
peaks of the mountains of Carrara, and to the left rose 
the majestic and snow-capped Apennines, all rugged and 
intersected with deep valleys. 

The road was steep, and we wondered how the noble, 
big, white oxen managed to drag the awkward heavy 
two-wheeled carro (country-cart) up such an incline. 
The ground was arranged in terraces, each with a line 
of olive-trees on the outside and a line of vines on the 
inside. The centre was ploughed and sown with grain, 
while the banks of the terraces supplied fodder for the 
cattle. A Tuscan contadino throws away nothing, and 
manages to cultivate his podere like a garden. 

The black shining olives hung thick on the slender 
branches, which bent low under the weight. The crop 
was abundant, " una vera grazia di Dio " (a real bounty 
of God), as Bencino said. All the contadini of this 
fattoria, whose podere were situated on the slopes of the 
hills, where the ground is stony, and therefore suitable 
for the cultivation of olive-trees, were busily engaged 
gathering the fruit; the men up in the trees and on 

n6 Italian Sketches. 

ladders, the women and children picking up those which 
fell to the ground. The bruised berries are kept apart, 
to make the second quality of oil. The trees are most 
carefully and severely pruned, hollow in the middle, to 
form a basket-shaped tree. Agli olivi, un pazzo sopra 
e un savio sotto (A mad man at the top of the olive-tree, 
and a wise man at the roots), says the proverb. 

Enough fruit had been picked for the day's pressing, 
so we climbed up the bare bit of steep road which led 
to Bencino's house, accompanied by the old man and his 
four stalwart sons, all of whom had served in the army 
without ever having a bad mark, as their father told us 
with considerable pride. The house stood on the brow 
of a hill, and was built round two sides of a square 
courtyard paved with bricks; on the third side rose a 
high wall, with an arched gateway, over which was an old 
escutcheon, carved in stone, of the fifteenth century, 
with a lily and " S. M." entwined. A covered staircase 
was outside the house, and led into a large room, with 
huge beams and rafters, browned with age and smoke. 
The fireplace was immense, with seats in the corners. 
Here we found Bencino's mother, a ruddy, brisk old 
dame of near ninety ; we wanted to know her exact age, 
but she could not tell us, and replied with a proverb, 
" Gli uo?7iini hanno gli anni chl sentono, e le donne quelli 
che mostrano" (Men count the years they feel, and 
women those they show); adding that she had "molti, 

Oil-making in Tuscany. 117 

ma di molti anni" (many, many years), and that those 
sad years when Carlo and Pasquale, two of her grandsons, 
were both away at the war, had seemed to her a lifetime. 
" Ah, Illustrissimo," said she to the padrone, with tears 
in her bright old eyes, " let us pray that these kings and 
great folk don't make any more wars. It would kill me 
and the sposina there (Carlo's pretty young wife), if he 
had again to put on his bersagliere coat." The poor old 
woman clasped her wrinkled, brown hands, and the 
pretty sposina echoed, " Let us pray to God." We had 
to admire the baby's fat legs, and drink a glass of 
Bencino's vin vecchio, which was excellent, and then 
went down into the courtyard, and descended two steps 
into the frantojo, or oil-pressing room. 

In the centre was an immense stone basin, in which 
revolved a solid millstone about five feet in diameter 
technically called, I believe, an edge-runner, turned by a 
splendid white ox, which, to our astonishment, was not 
blindfolded. Our host told us that it was difficult to get 
oxen to do this work; it takes time and patience to 
accustom them to it. The millstone was set up on edge 
and rolled round in the stone basin, secured to a big 
column of wood which reached to the ceiling. The 
whole machine was most old-fashioned and clumsy, and 
the padrone said, laughing, was evidently as old as 
Noah's ark. Into the stone basin, as clean as a dairy- 
maid's pan, five sacks of olives were emptied, which, 

n8 Italian Sketches. 

in a short time, were reduced to a mass of dark greenish- 
brown thick pulp. Stones and all were mashed without 
any noise, save the occasional lowing of the ox when his 
tasselled and ornamented nose-bag was empty. When 
Bencino judged that the olives were sufficiently crushed, 
the pulp was taken out from the mill, with clean new 
wooden shovels, and put into a circular shallow basket 
with a large hole through the middle, made of thick cord 
fabricated from rushes grown in the Pisan marshes, and 
looking very much like open cocoanut matting. As 
fast as these gabbie, or cages, as they are called, were 
filled, they were carried by two men, on a handbarrow 
with long handles at each end, to the press in the corner 
of the room, and piled with the greatest exactitude one 
on the top of the other under the press. Then began 
the hard work. Two huge posts clamped with iron 
support a colossal beam, through which goes the screw, 
finishing below in a large square block of wood with two 
square holes right through it. 

Into one of these Carlo stuck a long beam, on the end 
of which he hooked a rope, which was secured round a 
turning pillar of wood, about six or eight feet distant, 
with a handle against which the men threw their whole 
weight. With many groans and squeaks the big block 
of wood revolved to the right until the rope was all 
twisted round the pillar, when it was unhooked, the 
beam lifted out of its hole in the block, and carried on 

Oil-making in Tuscany. 119 

Carlo's stalwart shoulder to be inserted into the hole 
further back, the rope untwisted, and again hooked 
round the end of the beam, and so on until not a drop 
more could be extracted. The press was then screwed 
back, and the gabbie carried on the handbarrow to the 
mill, where they were emptied, and their contents again 
ground for some time ; the gabbie were then filled anew, 
and put under the press for the second time, when a great 
deal more oil came dripping out, but of inferior quality. 
The refuse that remains, called sansa di oiivi, is almost 
black, and quite dry and gritty. This is sold for 
threepence or fourpence a bigoncia full, about fifty-five 
pounds in weight, to some people in the Val di Greve, 
who buy up the sansa from all the country round. 
They wash it in the running water of the Greve, when 
the pulp and the skin of the olive floats on the surface, 
and the crushed stones sink. With large, flat, pierced, 
wooden ladles the pulp and skins are skimmed off the 
water and boiled in immense cauldrons previous to being 
again put under the press. About ten per cent, of oil 
is thus extracted, but of very inferior quality, called 
olio lavato, or washed oil. This is chiefly used in 
Italy for making soap, but a good deal is exported. 
It has a nasty, sweet, sickly taste, entirely wanting the 
aromatic bitter so much prized in the good oil. But to 
return to the press. At its foot is a large marble under- 
ground receptacle, into which the oil ran. This was 

120 Italian Sketches. 

carefully covered with a hinged, wooden lid to prevent 
any dust or dirt from falling in. Bencino lifted up the 
lid and showed us the stream of oil falling into a clean 
wooden tinello or small vat. 

Olives contain two-thirds of water and one-third of 
oil, and for some time it came dripping clear and 
bright like amber; but when the gabbie had been 
squeezed and squashed down to about half their original 
size, and the press was screwed back, and the big block 
of wood raised to admit large heavy rounds of wood, 
which were screwed down tight again on the pulp, it was 
more mixed with dirty-yellow water, and lost its golden tint. 

The oil naturally floats on the top of the water, and 
Carlo Bencino was busily engaged in skimming it deli- 
cately off with a big tin scoop. He poured it through 
a funnel into a clean wooden barile (a small barrel with 
narrow ends, held together by large, flat, wooden hoops, 
and holding about thirty-six quarts) ; and when this was 
full he shouldered it and carried it off to the chiaritojo, 
or oil-clearing room, where the barile is emptied into a 
large conca, a terra-cotta vase like an immense' flower- 
pot, well glazed inside. This room was, like everything 
else, scrupulously clean, and paved with red bricks 
sloping towards the middle, where there was another 
underground marble receptacle, in case of an accident, 
such as the breaking of a conca. The temperature is 
kept as equable as possible, and in cold winter weather 

Oil-making in Tuscany. 121 

a brazier is lighted at night. Nothing spoils the look, 
though not the flavour, of oil so much as getting frozen ; 
it becomes thick, and seldom quite regains its golden 
limpidity, even when treated by people who thoroughly 
understand it. 

For fifteen or twenty days it is left to clear in these 
conche, when the thicker or second quality sinks, and 
the clear, brilliant, yellow oil is carefully put into barile 
and sent down in the ox-cart to the fattoria, where it 
is emptied into tall, well-glazed terra-cotta jars. These 
are kept in a dark room, with a southern exposure, pro- 
tected from any violent changes of temperature by a 
fire during the cold weather. 

Ten or twelve barili of oil can be pressed in a day, 
and as all the other contadini of the fattoria bring their 
olives and those of the padrone up to the press at 
Bencino's, this process goes on for some time when the 
crop is abundant. It is hard work, and must be done 
with cleanliness and nicety. At first our host had some 
difficulty in getting the contadini to see that it was of 
importance to separate the bruised from the fresh-picked 
fruit, and to keep the press and implements clean. 
They thought it was only a whim, which they obeyed, 
partly from a sense of duty, but chiefly because the 
padrone is extremely beloved by his tenantry. 

The jollity and fun of the battitura (thrashing) or of 
the vintage was wanting ; the days were short and the 

122 Italian Sketches. 

wind cold, and, as Pasquale said, " one's throat is out of 
tune in winter, and without a song work seems dull and 
heavy; however, we make up for it at night when we 
have pan unto (oiled bread)." We asked what this 
was, and he explained that during the process of press- 
ing the contadini who made the oil always invited their 
friends to eat pan unto or toasted bread dipped in 
the new oil. The old folk talk about the crops and 
family affairs, and the young people sing and dance, and 
make love to one another. The girls here never dance 
out of their own homes or the houses of friends. On 
the fes fas and saints' days the young men dance together 
out-of-doors, and the girls look on. Another odd custom 
is that a girl who is engaged to be married either does not 
go to the festas, or, if she does, she puts on her every- 
day working dress, and does not wear her best ear-rings 
or bright-coloured little shawl tied coquettishly across 
her breast. She keeps aloof from the general company, 
and her jidanzato, or affianced husband, does not go and 
talk to her. 

The evening passes away merrily, for many of the 
young men play the guitar or the accordion, and almost 
all sing enough to join in a chorus. Some of the old 
contadini are renowned for their talent as story-tellers, 
but their tales are all about real people. No northern 
Italian has ever heard of a fairy hobgoblin ; even ghosts 
are scarce, and are held in small estimation. 

Oil- making in Tuscany. 123 

Our host insisted on our tasting the new oil, and to 
our surprise it was delicious, like a decoction of very 
aromatic herbs, and entirely free from the rank, nasty 
taste we generally associate with oil. We now under- 
stood why Italian salads are so different from ours, and 
how a fritto, or dish of fried meat and vegetables, 
comes to be so excellent in Tuscany. Coming back 
to the villa by twilight through the silent woods, at the 
end of our walk we met a joyous company going up 
to pay Bencino a visit, and eat pan unto. They had 
two guitars and an accordion, and, after cordial and 
even affectionate greetings between them and the 
padrone, passed on, singing in chorus as they breasted 
the hill. One of the girls was very pretty, which we 
shrewdly suspected explained Pasquale's blushes, and 
the padrone said she was a good girl, and so he would 
allow the marriage. We noticed that our host addressed 
all his people as figliuolo mio (my son), even men who 
were thirty years his senior, while the women were 
invariably bambina mia (my little girl), unless he knew 
their names. Altogether a very pleasant and easy-going 
life is the Tuscan peasant's. He has a direct interest in 
the produce of the land, and in bad years his padrone 
helps him with grain, wine, oil, beans, maize, and other 
necessaries, often at a heavy loss to himself. 



Agriculture in Italy, at least in Tuscany, has changed 
so little since old Virgil sang, that his descriptions would 
pass muster with any peasant of the present day. The 
" hardy rustic " still goes into the woods and seeks for 
an elm or, by preference, an oak, to fashion into a 
plough-beam, for a stanga or stiva, " stegola " (handle), 
not less than eight feet long, and for the earth-boards, 
called orecchi, " aures" (ears), and also for the share- 
beams with double backs, called dentale a due dors/, 
{duplici aptantur dentalia dor so), which hold the gom- 
bere (vomero), or large iron coulter for breaking up 
the earth, and the vangheggiola, or smaller one for 
making furrows for sowing. On the slopes of the hills 
of Fiesole the whole plough is often called bombero, 
instead of aratro. The yoke is rudely made of lime 
or beech, and the capacious chimney of the peasant's 
house still affords room for seasoning the wood. 

The aja, or threshing-floor is still made solid with 
potter's clay, and beaten hard. Virgil recommends a 

126 Italian Sketches. 

huge roller, which is an unknown implement in Tuscany. 
The careful peasant still picks and chooses beans, maize, 
and such large seeds one at a time by hand, and the 
ancient theory that a fine crop of bloom on the walnut- 
trees indicates a good wheat-harvest still holds as good, 
witness the well-known proverb : — 

" Quando le noce vengono a mucchierelli 
La va bene pei ricchi e i poverelli. " * 

I cannot recognize any of Virgil's names for olives, 
orc/iades, radii, or pausia, in the Tuscan morinelle, in- 
frantoie, rosselline, correggiuole, or pendoline and leccine. 
The two first named are also called morcai, because 
they contain more oil than the others, and make more 
i?iorchict, or pulp, in the crushing-machine. They are 
larger olives, but not so aromatic in taste as some of 
the smaller sorts. The approved way of making an 
olive plantation is still to hew an old stock in small 
pieces for planting, when a young olive-tree springs from 
the sapless wood : — 

" Quin et caudicibus sectis, mirabile dictu ! 
Truditur e sicco radix oleagina ligno." 

Pliny says that olive-wood worked and made into hinges 
for doors has been known to sprout ; but on propound- 
ing this to a Tuscan countryman I met with extreme 

* " When the walnuts come in handfuls, 
All goes well for rich and poor." 

Virgil and Agriculture in Tuscany. 127 

Some rash innovators have lately suggested sowing 
olive-kernels and grafting the young trees ; but Tuscans 
do not like changes, and are apt to quote : — 

" Chi lascia la via vecchia per la nuova 
Sa quel che lascia, non sa quel che trova." * 

If Virgil found it impossible to enumerate the different 
kinds of grapes and their names, how much more so is 
it the case to-day? But his praises of the Falernian 
wine are well deserved. White Falernian is excellent, 
and has an aroma and bouquet of its own, withal strong 
and generous. Tuscany is deservedly proud of her 
chianti, and vin santo from any respectable fattoria is 
not to be despised. But the worst of Italian wines is, 
that you are seldom sure of getting the same two years 

The manner of making wine has not changed since 
the time of Virgil. The white oxen bring the grapes 
from the fields, in a vat placed on an unwieldy, heavy 
ox-cart, painted scarlet, to the tinaja^ or place where 
the tint or vats are. The grapes are emptied out 
into Mgoncie, tall wooden pails without handles, which 
the men carry on their shoulders. The grapes are 
poured into the immense open vats, where they are 
stamped upon night and morning by the bare-legged 
peasants, to prevent the upper stratum of grapes be- 

* "Whoso leaves the old road for the new, 

Knows what he leaves, but not what he may find." 

128 Italian Sketches. 

coming acid by too long a contact with the air. When 
the fermentation has ceased, the clear must is run off; 
a man gets into the vat and pitchforks the murk into 
bigoncie again, which are emptied into the winepress. 
As a pictorial subject this press is delightful, but it is 
inconvenient and extremely wasteful. Two huge posts 
of wood support an immense beam, through which 
works a wooden screw, finishing at the bottom in a 
square block of wood with two square holes straight 
through it. Under this stands what is called the 
gabbia (cage), a round, vat-shaped, iron-clamped re- 
ceptacle, made of strong bars of wood. The murk is 
put into this, and when it is full, toppi, round slabs 
of wood, like colossal cheeses, are piled on the top of 
the murk. Then a long pole is stuck into one of the 
square holes at the bottom of the screw, and to the 
other end is hooked a rope, which is secured round a 
turning pillar of wood about eight feet off, with a handle 
against which three or four men throw their whole 
weight. Slowly, with many creaks and groans, the huge 
block of wood descends on the round slabs, and the rope 
curls round the pillar, while from between the bars of 
the press gushes out a dark, turbid, dirty-looking liquid, 
which one can hardly believe will ever turn into ruby 
wine. This operation is repeated by unhooking the 
rope, lifting the beam out of its hole, and carrying it, on 
a man's shoulder, to the hole behind, until the murk by 

Virgil and Agriculture in Tuscany. 129 

sheer physical force is pressed into a compact mass, and 
contains no more liquid. 

Virgil's excellent advice about thoroughly seasoning 
and breaking up the land before planting vines is carried 
out to the letter in Tuscany, where the ditcher makes a 
trench at least six feet deep and four feet wide, called 
scasso reale, which is left open to sun, wind, and rain 
for six months or a year before it is again filled in, after 
having been drained in a rough and ready manner by 
pitching all available stones into the bottom of the 
trench. The vine-cuttings, magliuoli, or, better still, 
two-year-old rooted plants, barbalelli, are then planted 
two on each side of a young maple-tree destined for 
their support If a vineyard is to be made, the quincunx 
system, recommended by Virgil, is always followed, and 
you will still hear the head of the gang of workmen 
saying "they must be like soldiers, properly in line." A 
little further on you will see a sturdy peasant following 
the plough, and others sowing and hoeing over the 
field ; one at least will be singing a stornello at the top 
of his voice. Their legs are generally bare far above 
the knee, and nudas ara, sere nudus is at once recalled 
to your mind. Down in the valley, by the brawling 
streamlet, whose course you can trace far away into 
the blue distance by the double line of tall poplars, 
glinting in the sun, grow the tall, graceful, blue-green 
canes (Arundo donax). What would they do in Tuscany 


130 Italian Sketches. 

without the canne ? Hedges are mended, young trees 
staked, and vines trained on canne. They need no care, 
and are as useful as they are ornamental. 

The warning against planting olive-trees in the vine- 
yards, for fear of fire, is no longer regarded; on the 
contrary, olives are very generally planted in the new- 
fashioned vigne alia francese, or vineyards according 
to the French system, partly because they give very 
little shade, and partly with an eye to the future, in case 
the dreaded phylloxera were to devastate Italy, when 
the unhappy proprietors would at least have their olive- 
trees to fall back upon. The tree sacred to Pallas will 
grow on the wild mountain-side, in the biancana or white 
marl, which is so poor that even the vine needs a 
very large quantity of manure in order to succeed well. 
Virgil's advice to study the colour of the soil is borne 
out in the Tuscan proverb : — 

" Terra bianca, tosto stanca ; 
Terra nera, buon gran mena. " * 

Vines are still planted and trained as in Virgil's day; 
and, alas ! his warning against the " poison of the hard 
tooth " of sheep and goats still holds good. Would that 
all goats had long ago been sacrificed to Bacchus ! 

The fashion, in Tuscany at least, and I believe more 
or less all over Italy, is to keep a herd numbering from 

* " White earth is soon exhausted ; 
Black earth bears good wheat." 

Virgil and A griculture in Tuscany. 131 

ten to three hundred sheep or goats at your neighbours' 
expense. Hedges are ruined, forests denuded of under- 
wood and young trees ; and often it is the syndic of the 
village, or some important person in the commune, who 
thus sets the law (for there is a law against permitting 
goats and sheep to injure other people's property) at 
defiance. Being persons of authority, they are not likely 
to be attacked for breaking the laws they ought to 

The care of vines, as Virgil says, is never-ending, the 
ground must be dug over three or four times in the year, 
and the clods broken with the back of the hoe. As soon 
as the labour of the vintage is finished, that of pruning 
begins. If the Tuscans laid to heart what the poet so 
truly observes : — 

" Be the first to dig the ground, etc. ; 
Be the latest to reap the produce," 

the wine would much improve. As a rule the grapes in 
Tuscany are picked too soon, with a consequent loss of 
saccharine and alcohol in the wine. The old saying 
though, Fammi fiovera, ti faro ricco (Make me poor, 
I will make thee rich), is being more followed, and the 
vines are more scientifically pruned and with better 

The propagation of the vines is done in various ways. 
The mag/iuo/o, which I take to be Virgil's truncus, is 
the most used. The well-ripened wood of the long 

132 Italian Sketches. 

branches of the vine is cut into lengths of about three 
feet ; nearly two feet is pushed underground with a 
long iron instrument which has a deep slit at one end, 
like two fingers. Then there is the propaggine (pro- 
paginis arcus), which consists in arching a long vine- 
branch, and burying about a foot of it underground. 
When the roots are formed, this is severed from the 
parent plant ; but they say the vine is not so long-lived 
as when treated in the first-mentioned way. 

Cattle are a great resource to the Tuscans, and they 
take a legitimate pride in the noble white oxen from the 
Val di Chiana, with small heads and horns, large, liquid, 
brown eyes, and soft, fine skins. I have seen a pair 
at the fair at Prato, standing twenty hands high, their 
beautiful heads all decked with various-coloured bits of 
cloth and small looking-glasses. Round their immense 
bodies was tied a scarlet ribbon to show off still more 
their girth. One involuntarily repeated Lord Macaulay's 
lines : — 

" And deck the bull, Mevania's bull, 
The bull as white as snow. " 

The breeding of these cattle is most profitable ; they are 
all stall-fed, as pasture is unknown in Tuscany. It is 
generally the work of the women and boys and girls to 
collect the fodder, which varies with the time of year 
from grass and clover to vine, elm, and oak leaves. The 
calves are most carefully attended to, and Virgil's advice 

Virgil and Agriculture in Tuscany. 133 

not to fill the pails with milk, white as snow, but to leave 
it all for the beloved young, is perforce attended to, as 
the large white breed are such poor milkers that they 
have but just enough for their calves. When a milch 
cow is wanted she is bought from the herds driven twice 
a year down from the Swiss Alps. But Italians use so 
little milk and butter, that in any rather out-of-the-way 
village it is impossible to buy either. 

As to the horses, so beautifully described by Virgil 
that one recognizes at once a first-class breed, their 
descendants are indeed degenerate ! The Italian horse, 
generally speaking, is a wretched animal. Small, ill- 
made, cow-hocked, overworked and underfed, broken-in 
and made to do hard work at between two and three 
years old, he is the type of what a horse ought not to be. 
The small ponies are the best animals they have now in 
Italy. They probably owe something to Eastern blood, 
as their heads, legs, and good hoofs recall the Arab. 
They are fast and hardy, but generally overdriven, which 
ruins their paces. 

The sheep and goats, as I have before said, are a real 
pest in Tuscany, and the municipalities are beginning to 
awake to the damage they commit. The milk-cheese 
described by Virgil is extremely popular to the present 
day. The sheep are milked, and the milk is slightly 
warmed over a fire ; some presame is thrown in, which 
consists of a mixture of rennet and the beard of the wild 

i34 Italian Sketches. 

artichoke. In four hours the milk is set ; and large 
quantities are sold, neatly folded up in a mat of green 
rushes strung together. It is called raveggiolo. Unless 
salt is added it will not keep good more than twelve 
hours. To make the raveggiolo into cheese is a simple 
operation : it is put on an inclined plane of basketwork 
and gently pressed with the hands for some time. It 
seems some of the shepherds have a reputation for 
making far better cheese than others, and this is 
attributed to their having hotter hands. I have, though, 
noticed that a pretty daughter often has a great deal to 
do with the goodness of the cheese. 

The lambs are killed when between twenty-eight and 
thirty-five days old — a great waste of meat. But Italians 
as a rule will not eat mutton, and lamb is often passed 
off as kid, which is considered more delicate. 

Bees are usually kept by the monks, and few things 
are more picturesque and serenely beautiful than an 
old monastery garden in the spring-time. The double 
avenues of dark cypresses, and a tangled undergrowth 
of rosemary, lavender, and China roses, the grass all 
enamelled with daffodils, primroses, and wild orchises, 
and the bees busily humming hither and thither, form a 
picture not easily forgotten. 

The hives are almost invariably made of the hollowed 
trunks of willow trees, closed at the top and bottom with 
boards, and the cracks filled up with clay ; very like what 
is described in the " Georgics." 

Virgil and Agriculture in Tuscany. 135 

A village priest, living not far from Florence, has 
invented a wooden hive of the most ingenious fashion, 
and a way of taking the honey without destroying the 
combs. Don Giotto has the rare gift of handling bees 
without having to fear their anger and painful sting. He 
will walk up to a hive of strange bees, open it, and take 
out the small inhabitants, who crawl all over him, and 
seem rather to like being disturbed ; while the priest's 
kindly face beams with pleasure, he being an enthusiastic 

Bees were always popular in Italy, and Messer Giovanni 
Rucellai's " Le Api " (The Bees) is still a standard work, 
particularly on account of the beautiful Italian, for the 
author's notions about bees are on a par with Virgil's. 
He wrote "LeApi" in 1524, and published the first 
edition in 1539. 

Many of my readers must have often compared Virgil 
with Italy of the present day. The love of home and 
country, and the strong family affections which are so 
striking now, are described by the old Mantuan poet, 
whose Praise of Italy is the most exulting hymn ever 
written in honour of a country. 

" But neither the groves of Media, that land of wealth, 
nor fair Ganges, and Hermes, turbid with its slime of 
gold, can vie with the glories of Italy. . . . Teeming 
crops o'erspread it, and the juice of the Massic vine; 
olive-trees possess it, and goodly herds ; hence comes 

Italian Sketches. 

the warrior-horse, that proudly bounds into the field ; 
hence the snowy flocks, Clitumnus, and the bull, the 
chiefest victim, which, often bathed in thy hallowed 
stream, lead to the shrines of the gods the triumphs of 
Rome. Here is ceaseless spring, and summer in months 
where summer is strange. . . Think too of so many 
glorious cities and laboured works, so many towns piled 
by the hand of man on steepy crags, and the streams 
that flow beneath those ancient walls ! . . . Hail, realm 
of Saturn, mighty mother of fruits, mighty mother of 
men !" 






,.,;„.>, ..iv.,/-.^,M^.., 



The first Lodge of Freemasonry was instituted at 
Florence in 1733, by Charles Sackville, Lord Middlesex, 
afterwards First Lord of the Treasury, and Equerry to 
Frederick, Prince of Wales. He was a poet and fond 
of music, and in 1737 was impressario of the Pergola 
at Florence. The Masons first met in Via Maggio, at 
an inn kept by G. Pascio, called by the Florentines 
Monsiu Pascio, or Pascione, and the first Master, or, more 
correctly, Venerable, was Mr. Fox, a great mathematician, 
and a man of considerable learning. These meetings 
always ended with a good dinner, and, finding that 
the innkeeper of Via Maggio did not treat them well, 
the Masons abandoned his house and went to John 
Collins's, himself a Freemason, and owner of the best inn 
in Florence. The second Master was the founder, Lord 
Middlesex, and he was succeeded by Lord Raymond, 
who had the reputation of being an unbeliever. One of 

* Most of the facts in this paper are taken from " Tommaso 
Crudeli, e I Primi Framassoni in Firenze," by F. Sbigoli, Milan, 

138 Italian Sketches. 

the principal personages was a Prussian, Baron Phillip 
Stosch, a great archaeologist and numismate ; he was a 
political spy, first in the service of Holland, then, of 
England, and bore an indifferent reputation, particularly 
among the English. The first Tuscan received as a 
Freemason was the celebrated Dr. Antonio Cocchi, so 
often mentioned by Horace Walpole and Horace Mann, 
" Dr. Cocchi is better worth chronicling than many of the 
Florentine princes." Born at Benevento in 1695, he 
studied at Pisa, and, on taking his degree in medicine, 
went to practise in Elba. He accompanied Theophilus 
Hastings, Lord Huntingdon, to England, and remained 
three years in London, afterwards travelling with his 
patron, who often left him without money to buy bread. 
The Princess of Wales wanted Dr. Cocchi to enter 
her service, but he refused, and returned to Tuscany in 
1726, when Jean Gaston named him Professor of Medi- 
cine at Pisa, but, being a poor orator, he exchanged to 
the schools of Florence, where he taught anatomy. Dr. 
Cocchi was a man of prodigious memory, considerable 
talent, and great literary taste ; he was the friend of all 
the foreigners in Florence, and had a special admiration 
for the English character and mode of life. Add to this 
that he edited and printed the first edition of " Benvenuto 
Cellini," and we shall not wonder the Head Inquisitor 
suspected him and warned him to be very cautious. 
Tommaso Crudeli, Giuseppe Cerretesi, Antonio Nic- 

To mm a so Crude ll 139 

colini, Paolino Dolce, and the Abbes Franceschi, Otta- 
viano Bonaccorsi, and Buondelmonti, are the chief 
names among the sixty Florentine Masons ; but it does 
not appear that they were very assiduous frequenters of 
the meetings, and after the famous Bull published in 
Rome in April, 1738, by Clement XIL, denouncing Free- 
masonry, they ceased altogether to attend. Even John 
Collins was intimidated, and, in concert with Tommaso 
Crudeli, who appears to have been the secretary, and 
with Lord Fane, the English minister, persuaded Lord 
Raymond, the Master, to dissolve the Lodge. 

Paolino Dolci, mentioned above, was one of the 
personal attendants of Jean Gaston, and bore a vile 
name ; he was celebrated for his beauty, and is lam- 
pooned in the satires of that time in Florentine Billings- 
gate of a most forcible kind. 

Antonio Niccolini, a cadet of a noble Tuscan family, 
donned the priest's robe, without however taking orders, 
in order to enjoy the many ecclesiastical benefices 
belonging to his house, and to have leisure for study. 
Celebrated enough during his life, he is now all but 
forgotten. Like most of the Florentine nobility, Abbe 
Niccolini was educated by the Jesuits, but having 
travelled in Germany, Holland, France, and England, 
and formed friendships with the most illustrious men of 
those countries, he returned with enlightened and liberal 
ideas, and was in consequence called a Jansenist. The 

i 4 o Italian Sketches. 

Prince of Wales, afterwards George II., paid the Abbe 
much attention in London; so, on his return, Cosmo III. 
exiled him from Tuscany, under suspicion of being an 
innovator and a libertine. This caused Montesquieu to 
say, "My friend Niccolini must have said some huge 
truth." The Grand Duke only relented after a year of 
incessant intercession on the part of the high clergy. 
Abbe Niccolini then went to Rome, and became a 
prelate; but he was too high-minded and liberal to 
be tolerated by the Curia, and soon returned to his 
fine palace in Via dei Servi in Florence, where the 
musical entertainments of the Abbe Marquis became 
celebrated. M. de Brosses says that he never met any 
one who united such clearness of intellect with so much 
grace, and such a powerful memory with so facile a 
delivery. He talked equally well on the last mode of 
dressing hair or a proposition of Newton. He had a 
large share in the fourth edition of the " Vocabulary of 
the Crusca," and it was at his expense that the Madonna 
di Foligno was engraved at the time that he reclaimed 
and drained the plain round that city. In the interesting 
collection of his letters to Giovanni Bottari, we see that 
although he only belonged to the Freemasons for a 
short time, yet he always retained the tolerant spirit 
and love of progress which characterize that body. A 
man who in 1761 could write as follows is of no common 
stamp : — 

Tommaso Crude Li. i 4 i 

" I should wish for intelligence and true religion in a 
Pope. The latter is of no use without the former; 
sanctity without doctrine, as Saint Gregory Nazianzen 
teaches, leaves a man with only one eye instead of the 
two he ought to have. Bigots will always be deceived 
by people who are cleverer than themselves, and will ruin 
religion and the Apostolic See, which cannot exist 
without doctrine, or, rather, without good sense. Rome 
is rapidly going to pieces, and is discredited all over the 

Abbe Niccolini died at Rome on the 4th of October, 
1769, and they say that Emperor Joseph II. cried on 
hearing of his death. His tomb in the church of Trinita 
dei Monti, was probably destroyed by the French soldiers 
in the beginning of this century. 

Giuseppe Maria Buondelmonti was another of the 
Masonic body. Born in Florence in 17 13, Soria calls 
him "the most learned and the most talented of the 
Florentine nobility." A poet, an orator, and a philo- 
sopher, he was chosen to preach the funeral orations in 
honour of Jean Gaston, of Charles VI., and of the 
mother of Francis of Lorraine, in San Lorenzo. To- 
gether with Andrea Bonducci, author and printer, he 
translated the "Rape of the Lock," and was a great 
admirer of all the works of Pope. Gray wrote an 
" Imitation of an Italian Sonnet by Signor Abbate 
Buondelmonti," and turned a song of his into Latin, 

i A 2 Italian Sketches. 

while Horace Walpole put it into English. Many of 
my readers may remember it in Horace Walpole : — 

" Spesso Amor sot to la forma 
D'amista ride, e s'asconde ; 
Poi si mischia e si confonde 
Con lo sdegno e col rancor. 
In pietade ei si trasforma, 
Par trastulla e par dispetto ; 
Ma nel tuo diverso aspetto, 
Sempre egli e l'istesso Amor." 

" Risit amicitise interdium velatus amictu, 
Et bene composita veste fefellit Amor : 
Mox irae assumpsit cultus faciemque minantem, 
Inque odium versus, versus et in lacrymas : 
Ludentem fuge, nee lacrimanti aut crede furenti 
Idem est dissimili semper in ore Deus. ' 

(" Love often in the comely mien 
Of friendship fancies to be seen ; 
Soon again he shifts his dress, 
And wears disdain and rancour's face. 
To gentle pity then he changes 
Thro' wantonness, thro' piques he ranges ; 
But, in whatever shape he move, 
He's still himself, and still is Love.") 

Buondehnonti was named member of the Crusca, and 
instead of treating some abstruse question of grammar 
or rhetoric in his first speech, he chose the subject of 
war; particularly recommending that all unnecessary 
cruelty should be abolished, and suggesting the idea of 
an European Congress to be appealed to as arbitrator. 
This enlightened ecclesiastic died young at Pisa, in 1757. 

Tommaso Crude li. 143 

Tommaso Crudeli was born in 1703 at Poppi, the 

picturesque ancient capital of the Casentino. He 

studied Latin in his native town, and then went to 

Florence under the well-known canon of San Lorenzo, 

Pier Francesco Tocci. At eighteen, Crudeli went to 

Pisa, and, after taking his degrees, visited Padua and 

Venice, where he remained nine months as preceptor 

in the Contarini family; returning to Poppi, he made 

frequent visits to Florence, becoming celebrated for 

his wit and pleasant manners and his " magnificent 

nose," which is mentioned in several comic poems of 

that time. In 1733 he settled entirely in Florence, 

earning his living by giving Italian lessons to the 

numerous English residents, with whom he was an 

universal favourite. Crudeli suffered terribly at times 

from asthma, but that did not prevent his being a 

prominent member of the Academy of the Apathists, 

where he often exercised his talent for improvising, and 

also wrote verses and lyric poems. Hearing from his 

English pupils of the pleasant Masonic meetings, he was 

seized with a desire to join the brotherhood, but being 

afraid of the Holy Inquisition, he hesitated until he 

heard that Dr. A. Cocchi, two Augustine friars of Santo 

Spirito, and Paolino Dolci had become members; he 

became a Mason in 1735, an ^ dined frequently at John 


When Bernardo Tannuci became minister to Charles 

i4+ Italian Sketches. 

III. of Naples, he invited his friend and pupil, Tommaso 
Crudeli, to go there as court poet, with a stipend of 
fifty ducats a month. Unfortunately he refused, or he 
might have lived to do something really great in 
literature. He was one of the first Italians who tried 
his hand at the fable, and some of his free versions of " La 
Fontaine " are admirable. He translated " Le Superbe " 
by Destouches, and it was given in the theatre at Poppi, 
with a prologue, turning the existing Italian theatre into 
ridicule, and paving the way for the reform which, 
thanks to Goldini, was carried out a few years afterwards. 
In the person of the Censor, understood to be himself, 
Crudeli says : — 

" I am all for laughter, but not for that of a low buffoon, 
Which kills noble pity in every breast, 
And make matrons bend their heads and blush." 

And again : — ' 

"... Laugh at the blushes 
Called into your cheek, fair, gentle woman ; 
That laughter is born of an injury done to you ; 
But all do not laugh : hidden anger 
Swells the breast of the father, 
For that lascivious jest is a grave insult 
Done to him, to his wife, and his daughter." 

Crudeli does, however, call a spade by its proper 
name, and some of his poems which then had a great 
reputation are quite unreadable. We must remember, 
however, that he only followed the fashion of his day, 


and that we could cite various reverend authors of most 
licentious poems. 

The house where Tommaso Crudeli lived as a youth 
at Poppi, was opposite the monastery of the Friars of 
Vallombrosa, whose life was not of a character to edify 
the townspeople, or to inculcate religion and decency ; 
this, no doubt, contributed to the covert dislike and 
distrust he had of the clergy in general, whose ire he 
roused by the ode written on the death of Filippo 
Buonarroti, praising him for the firmness he showed in 
resisting the exorbitant pretensions of the priests. From 
that moment the Nuncio and the Chief Inquisitor began 
to collect evidence against our poet, and determined on 
his ruin. They had not long to wait. When the last 
Medici died on the 9th of July, 1737, the priests hoped 
to regain their ancient supremacy in Palazzo Pitti, 
through the favour of the Electress Palatine, who at 
first had great influence with Francis of Lorraine. The 
Archbishop of Florence and the Apostolic Nuncio, 
Monsignor Stoppani, as well as the Inquisitor Ambrogi, 
who had a large share in the Bull of 1738, were most 
anxious to find out the secret of the Freemasons, and 
seizing a priest, Bernini by name, tried to threaten and 
cajole him into denouncing his brother Masons. 

In January, 1739, tne Grand Duke Francis and his 
wife, Maria Theresa, entered Florence amid great re- 
joicings. Francis was an industrious man, animated 


146 Italian Sketches. 

with the best intentions towards Tuscany, perfectly 
tolerant in religion, and jealous of any encroachment 
on his sovereign power. He had become a Freemason 
some years before, and could not therefore be expected 
to view the tribunal of the Inquisition, unknown in 
Lorraine, with favour. Yet this humane and tolerant 
man was so fearful of offending the Pope and his own 
wife, who was a bigot, and of rousing the diffidence and 
animosity often shown towards foreigners by the Italians, 
that he allowed himself to be made an instrument of, to 
persecute an innocent man and a brother Mason. 

After the Lodge had been dissolved, some of the 
members used to meet at the house of Baron Stosch, a 
foreigner, a Protestant, and a man of indifferent cha- 
racter, and soon the most extravagant stories were 
circulated about the proceedings at these meetings. 

At that time all good Catholics were obliged to confess 
at Easter, under pain of being conducted to church by 
two policemen. The Jesuits made such good use of the 
confessional that they collected four accusations against 
Tommaso Crudeli, the Abbe Buonaccorsi, and Cerretesi. 
One of these was signed by Andrea Minerbetti, who was 
half-witted; another by a priest named Grossi, whom 
Crudeli had lampooned for his vanity and ill-breeding 
some years before. The latter accused the poet of 
denying the Trinity, the immortality of the soul, the 
authority of the Holy Inquisition, and of saying in the 

Tommaso Crude li. 147 

house of Baron Stosch that he considered St. John 
the Evangelist was an ass. 

With these documents, and a letter from Cardinal Neri 
Corsini, nephew of Clement XII. , the Archbishop of 
Florence, the Nuncio, and the Chief Inquisitor waited on 
the Grand Duke a few days before his departure for the 
war in Hungary against the Turks. The cardinal prayed 
Francis to exile Lord Raymond and Baron Stosch, to 
arrest the chief criminals professing themselves Masons, 
but who were a disgrace to that body, and to purge the 
University of Pisa of the old professors, and entrust its 
management to the Archbishop of Pisa, Monsignor 
Cerati, a zealous and saintly personage. He finished 
his letter with a threat of withdrawing the Nuncio from 

The Grand Duke made more resistance than was 
expected, and recourse was had to the Jesuit father 
confessors of the Electress and the Grand Duchess. 
Francis still hesitated, and called the secretary of state, 
Abbe Giandomenico Tornaquinci, to counsel, who ad- 
vised compliance with the Chief Inquisitor's demands. 
So at length orders were given to exile Baron Stosch and to 
imprison Crudeli and Buonaccorsi. The order of banish- 
ment was sent to Stosch, who at once called on Horace 
Mann, the English Resident, to protect him. Mann with 
some difficulty obtained, first, a delay of eight days, 
and then the suspension of the order until the King of 

i 4 8 Italian Sketches. 

England should reply to a letter Francis wrote to him on 
this subject. We must suppose that the answer was 
satisfactory, as the Baron remained undisturbed in 
Florence until his death, in 1757. 

Fearing that the falsity of the accusations against 
Crudeli and Buonaccorsi would be brought under the 
notice of the Grand Duke, Father Ambrogi did not call 
on the Bargello (head executioner) to arrest them until 
some days after Francis had left Florence. Buonaccorsi 
fell dangerously ill, so only Crudeli was suddenly seized 
at midnight on Saturday, the 9th of May, while return- 
ing to his house in Borgo S. Croce. He was taken 
to the public prison, and thence transferred to the cells 
of the Inquisition. The news was at first received with 
derision, but when it proved true, astonishment and 
sorrow were universal. Gaiety and fun were banished 
the city, and the vicar of the Chief Inquisitor having 
declared that u gf Jnglese erart molto pericolosi" all 
foreigners, and the English in particular, were shunned as 
though they were lepers. 

In spite of a promise of kind treatment to Counts de 
Richecourt and Rucellai, Tommasi Crudeli was kept for 
thirty-six days in a cell six paces long, with a small 
aperture into a dark passage. A dirty bed, swarming 
with vermin, was put into this hole, and the refinement 
of cruelty was carried so far as to deny him a light at 
night, in spite of his infirmity. No doctor was called in, 

Tommaso Crude li. 149 

though twice the friar who attended him said he was 
dying. At length the news of this ill-treatment began to 
be bruited about in Florence, and Crudeli was removed 
to a larger room, after the window had been almost 
entirely bricked up, and the sick man, used to gay 
society and every comfort of life, was shut up in the 
dark, deprived of books, pens, paper, and friends. 
Several times the Inquisitor, Father Ambrogi, interro- 
gated him, but, in spite of the miserably infirm state in 
which he was, could never entrap him into admitting his 
own guilt or accusing others. At length, by bribery, the 
friends and relations of Crudeli contrived to receive 
letters from him, which were shown to Count de Riche- 
court. The Duke of Newcastle was induced by the 
English residents of Florence to order Horace Mann to 
represent to the Regency of Tuscany that it was against 
the honour of England to permit the unhappy poet to be 
kept in prison for the crime of being a Freemason and 
a friend of the English. 

After thirteen long months of suffering, Tommaso 
Crudeli was given up by the Inquisition to the civil 
power, to be imprisoned in the Fortezza da Basso. He 
had broken a blood-vessel, and was in a rapid decline, 
but wrote to the Council of Regency, " Now my honour 
and peace of mind are in safe keeping, and I trust 
my liberty will soon follow." Meanwhile the poor, half- 
witted Minerbetti had been tormented by conscientious 

150 Italian Sketches. 

scruples about his confession, and, calling a notary, 
retracted the whole story. At length, on the 20th of 
August, 1740, Tommaso Crudeli was taken to the church 
of San Piero Scheraggio, under the Uffizzi (now sup- 
pressed), to hear his sentence. The Regency refused to 
allow the proceedings to be public, as the Inquisitor had 
taken no notice of the retraction of Minerbetti, and 
several of the most respectable citizens and men of 
letters were implicated in his insane ravings. After a 
long admonition, Father Ambrogi condemned Tommaso 
Crudeli to retire to his own house at Poppi, which he 
was only to leave in order to attend Mass at the opposite 
church of the Friars of Vallombrosa, and to recite the 
seven penitential psalms once a month under penalty of 
paying a thousand scudi for religious purposes. This 
was, I believe, the last sentence promulgated by the 
Holy Inquisition in Tuscany. 

In April, 1741, Crudeli was declared free, through the 
good offices of the new Nuncio Archinto, with Pope 
Benedict XII., who, it is said, was himself a Free- 
mason ; and the poor poet returned to Florence, where 
he died, aged forty-three, in January, 1745, with words 
of forgiveness to his enemies on his lips. 

Francis of Lorraine was so moved when, on his return, 
he read the authentic documents, that in 1743 he or- 
dered the prisons of the Inquisition to be thrown open, 
and for eleven years kept their tribunal entirely closed. 

Tommaso Crude li. 151 

Afterwards he put all tribunals under the civil law, only 
allowing the Inquisition a shadow of their former power. 
Peter Leopold took advantage of the incessant pre- 
tensions advanced by the Chief Inquisitor, and abolished 
the famous tribunal altogether in 1782. 


" Thou hast a word of that one land of ours 
And of the fair town called of the fair towers ; 
A word for me of my San Gimignan, 
A word of April's greenest-girdled hours. " 


For many miles round, San Gimignano is seen crowning 
the hill, its square towers breaking the sky-line in a quaint 
and picturesque manner. What vicissitudes have those 
high towers seen, and what famous men have passed 
through the old gate which still frowns defiance at the 
peaceful traveller ! 

Poggibonsi, the station for San Gimignano on the 
Florence and Siena line, has, like most Italian towns and 
villages, an interesting history. The old castle, whose ruins 
we see on the hill above the village, was taken and dis- 
mantled by the Florentines in 1257, to punish the people 
for their Ghibelline tendencies ; ten years later, Charles of 
Anjou spent four months in besieging it, and, furious at 
being balked by so insignificant a place, nearly all Italy 
having submitted to him after his victory at Benevento 
over Manfred, he ordered a strong fortress to be built 

154 Italian Sketches. 

inside the old castle walls, and left a governor there. As 
soon as Conradin arrived in Italy to try and wrest his 
birthright from French supremacy, the townspeople rose 
and turned out the Angiovines and Florentines, declaring 
for Conradin. But when he succumbed at Tagliacozzo 
(August 23rd, 1268), and the Florentines defeated the 
Sienese on the heights of Colle, Count Guido di Monfort, 
governor of Tuscany for Charles of Anjou, joined the 
Florentine army, and Poggibonsi again underwent the 
horrors of a siege. The castle and the fortress were 
razed, and the inhabitants, deprived of all civil rights, 
were forced to quit their old city, and, descending into 
the plain near the torrent Staggia, founded the present 
townlet. The commanding position tempted the Emperor 
Henry VII., in 1313, to rebuild the old castle and sur- 
round it with stockades ; he called it Poggio Imperiale, 
and lived there for two months. 

On the road from Poggibonsi to San Gimignano, we 
passed near the mediaeval castle of Strozzavolpe, once a 
stronghold of the Salimbeni of Siena, celebrated in the 
verses of Salvator Rosa, who painted some of his finest 
pictures there, when staying with his friends, the Riccardi 
of Florence, who owned the place for several centuries. 
Further up the valley, we came in view of the towers of 
unequal height, and the grey walls of the old town stood 
out against the blue sky. The country is rich and smib 
ing, and the contadini were busy tying up their vines 

San Gimignano delle Belle Torre. 155 

and cutting green fodder for their cattle, while the hedge- 
rows were enamelled with flowers glowing in the bright 
April sun. We soon came to the foot of the hill, and 
entering the more modern line of walls, built in the 
thirteenth century, drove up a narrow paved street and 
through a frowning double gateway, where the incline 
was so steep that our gallant little horses had to be 
encouraged with much cracking of whips and calling upon 
Sant' Antonio, into the Piazza della Cisterna ; then, turn- 
ing round the base of one of the square high towers, we 
found ourselves in the Piazza della Collegiata, in front 
of the old Municipal Palace, and transported back into 
the middle ages. 

How out of place and unreal the people walking about 
in modern dress looked ! We pictured to ourselves the 
gallant train following Dante Alighieri when he came as 
ambassador from the city of Florence on the 8th of May, 
1299, and dismounting in great pomp and state at the 
foot of the very steps we stood on, went up into the 
Council-hall, and by his fiery eloquence carried everything 
before him ; or the more martial escort of Niccolo 
Machiavelli, who, in May, 1507, came to San Gimignano 
to raise and order a regiment of burghers to fight against 
Pisa in the Florentine interest. 

Mounting the steep steps, we entered the great Hall of 
Council, decorated with several fine pictures from sup- 
pressed churches and monasteries, and with an immense 

156 Italian Sketches. 

fresco by Lippo Memmi, very similar to his well-known 
work in the Palazzo Pubblico at Siena. At the feet of 
the majestic Virgin kneels the donor, Messer Nello de' 
Tolomei, in his podesta robes ; the canopy which shields 
her and the Infant Jesus is upheld by angels and San 
Gimignano. Under the Madonna, in Gothic letters, is 
written, " Lippus Memi de Senis me pinxit" and lower 
down, in Roman characters, " Al tempo di Messer Nello 
di Messer Mino di Tolomei di Siena, onorevole potesta e 
chapilano del Chomune e del popolo della Terra di San 
Gimignano, MCCCXVII." This important work of 
art was damaged in 146 1 by opening two doors into 
adjacent rooms, and the great Benozzo Gozzoli did not 
disdain to repair it, as is seen by the following inscrip- 
tion in the right-hand corner : " Benotius Florentinus 
Pictor restaur avil Anno Domini M°CCCC°LXVII " A 
portion of the original intarsia-work benches are still in 
their places, where the councillors and rectors used to 
sit " decently habited with a hood and tunic or a chlamys 
of sober colour." The Municipal Council still meet here, 
and let us hope they lay to heart the apt sentence inscribed 
above the seat of the Provost of the Priors — 

Odi benigno ciascun che propone. 
Risponde grazioso e fa ragione." * 

* " Provost, listen benignantly to all who propound. Reply 
graciously, and do justice." 

San Gimignano delle Belle Torre. 157 

On one side of the great hall is the small and elegant 
tribune decorated with the line, Animus hi consulendo liber, 
in intarsia work. Here it was that Dante advocated the 
cause of the Guelphs and induced the people of San 
Gimignano to send their representatives to a meeting of 
the Tuscan league at Florence. This is commemorated 
by an inscription on one marble slab, while close by is 
another in honour of the great modern Italian statesman, 

One of the doors which cut off the legs of the saints in 
the fresco by Memmi leads into a smaller back room, 
where the Provost and the Priors held their private meet- 
ings to discuss matters before laying them before the 
General Council. The intarsia benches all round the room 
are fine examples of 1475, an< 3 are decorated with verses 
written by Filippo Buonaccorsi, surnamed " II Calli- 
maco : " — 

11 Pergite, Silviadse, Romano sanguine creti, 
Pace frui, legesque sacras, atque omnibus sequam 
Unanimes servare fidem : sed tollite, si quis 
Excitat adversos discordi fcedere cives, 
Et veterum moveant, et vos exempla novorum. 
Evellenda prius, sterilis quam crescat avena. 
Dogmata, ut hoec servant subsellia publica, cives 
Quis cura est Silvi, sic pectore fixa tenete." * 

* " Ye sons of Silvius, sprung from a Roman stock, continue to 
enjoy peace, and living in harmony to preserve the sacred laws and 
equal faith to all men. But if any one endeavours to stir up your 
fellow-citizens by a hostile compact, away with him. Follow in 
this the example set by those of old and by those of modern times. 

158 Italian Sketches. 

There are various frescoes in other rooms of the old 
palace; but the most interesting are downstairs in the 
chapel of the prison, now an office for the Attorney of the 
Commune, who most appropriately sits under the effigy of 
the patron saint of all lawyers, St. Ives. This fresco is 
attributed to Sodoma, and is worthy of his hand. St. 
Ives is seated, hearing cases, and widows, orphans and 
beggars are imploring him to see that justice should be 
done. Two angels uphold the arms of the Machiavelli 
family, from which we may infer that it was painted in 
1507, when Messer Giovan Battista Machiavelli was 
podesta. On the opposite wall is an inferior fresco, 
much damaged, with allegorical figures of Truth, Prudence, 
and Falsehood, the latter writhing under the foot of a 
seated and grave-looking judge. In one corner is 
written : — 

" Per quel che pecha 1'huS per quel patisce, 
Cava tu, verita, a la bugia 
La falsa lingua, qual sempre mentisce." * 

The small courtyard into which this room opens is 
wonderfully picturesque. A loggia, with traces of painting, 

The barren weed must be rooted out ere it spreads. And as these 
maxims are preserved (by being inscribed) upon these public seats, 
so do ye, O citizens, as you revere Silvius, keep them for ever in 
your hearts." 

* For his sins, man suffers. 
Tear thou out, truth, from falsehood 
The false tongue, which ever lies." 

San Gimignano delle Belle Torre. 159 

runs round three sides on the first floor, upheld by- 
slender columns, and an old well stands on one side. 
The high tower was begun ten years after the palace, 
in 1298, owing to a quarrel between the Council of the 
People and the priest of the adjacent Collegiate Church 
about ringing the bells. So the Council determined to 
have their own bell-tower, and each podesta added to its 
height, affixing their arms to the piece built by them. 
It is 172^ feet high, and rests on a large arch; though 
it has been struck by lightning eleven times, it does not 
appear to have suffered. 

The Collegiate Church stands at right angles to the 
Municipal Palace high above the piazza; a flight of 
twenty-five steps leads up to the doors, and, though 
much spoilt by successive alterations, traces of the original 
design by Matteo Brunisemd in 1239 are still apparent. 
The dim religious light of the fine interior is only 
sufficient to enable one to see that all the walls are 
frescoed. Benozzo Gozzoli, the great Florentine artist, 
painted the fresco of the martyrdom of St. Sebastian 
between the doors, — Ad laudem gloriosissimi athletes 
Sancti Sebasttani Paradise and hell are depicted on 
the side-walls by Taddeo Bartolo, of Siena (1393); very 
quaint is the punishment of the gluttons, who sit round 
a sumptuously spread table, while hideous demons pre- 
vent them from stretching forth their hands to reach the 
food. The roof is azure blue, with gold stars, and frescoes 

160 Italian Sketches. 

by Domenico da Firenze (? Ghirlandajo) Pier Francesco 
di Bartolomeo, also a Florentine, and Sebastiano Mainardi, 
of San Gimignano. The nave on the left is frescoed by 
Bartolo di Fredi, of Siena (1356), but modern restoration 
has injured his work terribly. Opposite are scenes from 
the New Testament by Berna da Siena, who fell from 
the scaffolding and was killed in 1380. Giovanni da 
Ascanio, his pupil, completed the work. "The people 
of San Gimignano were greatly attached to Berna, and 
buried him with considerable pomp," says Vasari, " not 
ceasing for many months to hang laudatory epitaphs in 
Latin and in the vulgar tongue round his tomb, the men 
of that town being much addicted to letters." Indeed, 
the quantity of inscriptions, epitaphs, and proverbs 
painted and sculptured in every conceivable place in the 
little town is astonishing. 

The chief ornament of the church is the lovely chapel 
of Santa Fina, with frescoes by Ghirlandajo. Fina 
de' Ciardi was born of noble but very poor parents, 
and lost her father in early childhood. Her great 
beauty and charm of manner attracted universal admira- 
tion ; but she was extremely devout, and, falling ill, chose 
to lie on a narrow board, without mattress or covering, 
so that at last her flesh adhered to the wood. On her 
mother's sudden death, a charitable Donna Bonaventura 
took charge of her and her nurse, and soon afterwards 
St. Gregory appeared to the young girl in a dream and 

Sajv Gimignano delle Belle Torre. 161 

announced her approaching death. On the 12th of 
March, 1253, the bells rang a solemn peal untouched by- 
human hands, and round the hard couch sprang up 
yellow wallflowers, fiore di Santa Find, which to this 
day crown the towers of San Gimignano with a golden 
glory. Fina was dead \ but, before burial, she raised her 
hand, and a blind deacon opened his eyes and saw, while 
her nurse Beldia regained her lost health. Other 
miracles followed, and in 1325 it was decided to build 
a chapel in honour of the youthful saint. Political events 
and the plague delayed the execution of this decision 
until 1465, when Giuliano da Majano was called from 
Florence to design the chapel. The beautiful altar of 
white marble is one of the finest works of Benedetto da 
Majano ; unfortunately, the sarcophagus which contained 
the bones of Santa Fina was removed in 1738 to make 
room for a new one, and now stands in the oratory of 
St. John. The two frescoes by Ghirlandajo are very 
lovely : to the right, St. Gregory announces to the sick 
girl her approaching death, and in the clouds is her soul 
borne aloft by angels ; opposite is her funeral, and the 
hand of the dead saint is raised towards the blind 
deacon. Up in the tower in the background sits an 
angel tolling the bell, to commemorate the mysterious 
ringing of bells at the death of Fina. Sebastiano 
Mainardi, pupil and brother-in-law of Ghirlandajo, painted 
the roof of the chapel, which has been spoiled by 

162 Italian Sketches. 

restoration. In the sacristy is a wonderfully lifelike bust, 
also by Benedetto, of Pietro Onofrio, who in 1463 was 
elected by his fellow-citizens controller of the works of 
the church for life, an unheard-of honour, due to " his 
well-known and tried honesty and capacity ; he died 
amid universal tears of grief in 1488, and his funeral 
was attended by a great concourse of people in St. 
Domenico, who saluted him as the Father of the 

From the church door the view of the small square is 
striking. To the right, rises the majestic Palazzo del 
Podesta with its rounded windows, iron balcony, and 
immense tower ; on the left, the slender twin towers of 
the Ardinghelli, the great family whose quarrels with 
the Salvucci were an incessant source of trouble to their 
native city, still look down on the spot where, in August, 
1352, the two handsome sons of Gualtiero degli Ardin- 
ghelli were beheaded by order of Messer Benedetto degli 
Strozzi, of Florence, captain of the people, who espoused 
the cause of the Salvucci. Opposite is the original 
Municipal Palace, with its immense loggia, where justice 
was administered, and its high tower, called La Rognosa 
until 1407, when a clock was placed in it, and it became 
DelP Oriolo. By an ancient edict, no tower belonging to 
any private person was allowed to exceed in height 
La Rognosa (160 feet). After the erection of the other 
palace, this edifice was devoted to the reception of 

San Gimignano delle Belle Torre. 163 

foreigners of distinction who visited San Gimignano. 
Now it has been turned into a theatre. 

Turning to the left, we strolled down the picturesque 
streets, and seeing a long, low arch at the end of a lane, 
walked towards it and came to the small church of San 
Jacopo, commonly called " II Tempio." Tradition says 
that a Messer Ruggiero Baccinelli, with others from San 
Gimignano, went to the first Crusade, and returning thence 
laden with treasure, about 1096 built a palace and 
church for the Knights Templar. These latter, render- 
ing themselves odious to the people, were turned out, 
their palace pillaged and destroyed, and their lands and 
church given to the Knights of Malta. Now San 
Jacopo belongs to the nunnery opposite, and the nuns 
pass over the covered archway unseen to hear Mass 
from the latticed windows in the ancient church, all 
covered with faded frescoes of the thirteenth century. 

Ivy and clematis hung in garlands from the arch, and 
as we passed under it a splendid panorama burst on our 
sight. To the left was the convent of Monte Uliveto, 
the townlet of Marcialla crowned the nearest hill, and 
Vico, a small yellow-grey-walled village, looked almost 
like an opal in the sun's rays. On the second range of 
hills lay Linari, and more to the right, surrounded with 
black cypresses, rose the tall campanile of San Leuchese ; 
still further away was Pietra Fitta, and a villa and 
large park belonging to Amedeus, Duke of Aosta, 

164 Italian Sketches. 

made a dark spot on the slope of the hill. The busy 
little town of Colle di Val d'Elsa was more to the right 
still, and all around range after range of pearl-grey and 
lilac hills melted away into the far distance. At our 
feet was green sward, and a shepherdess with her flock of 
goats and sheep passed slowly along, plying her distaff 
and singing in a sweet minor key about a knight who 
met a shepherdess and warned her of a wolf. She 
laughed at his warning ; but the wolf swallows her pet 
kid, and she begs the knight to pierce the brute's stomach 
with his glittering sword, promising to give him wool and 
goat's hair when she shears her flock. The knight says 
he is no merchant of wool or cloth, but that for one 
kiss of love from her sweet mouth he will do her bidding. 
The kid jumps out of the wolf's stomach into his mistress's 
arms, and all ends joyfully. Pear and cherry trees were 
in full bloom, glistening like new-fallen snow in the 
bright sun ; while at our backs rose the irregular houses 
and tall towers of San Gimignano and the old convent 
walls all aglow with Santa Fina's golden flowers, which 
scented the air and attracted butterflies and bees in 

Not far from the Templars' church is St. Agostino, 
ugly enough outside, but containing many fine pictures, 
and, above all, the delightful frescoes by Benozzo Gozzoli, 
which cover the whole choir. In seventeen compart- 
ments he has represented the life of St. Augustine, from 

San Gimignano delle Belle Torre. 165 

his first whipping by the schoolmaster of Tegaste to his 
death. We sat entranced by the naivete and fun in the 
earlier scenes of the career of Augustine, while yet a sinner, 
as well as by the beauty of the compositions after his 
conversion ; every head must have been done from life 
and con amore. The same artist painted the fine fresco 
of St. Sebastian holding out his cloak to shield the pious 
San Gimignanese from the plague of 1464. Close to 
this altar is a curious tombstone of the Benzi family ; a 
skeleton, with the words ibi, ubi, and at the four corners, 
nasci horror : vivere labor : mori dolor ; resurgere decor. 
Opposite is an altar dedicated to the favourite saint of 
this part of the world, Bartolo, son of Giovanni Buon- 
pedoni, Count of Mucchio, and of Gentina, his wife. As 
a child, he was so amiable and charming that his com- 
panions named him "Angelo dipace" (angel of peace); in 
old age, he was called the Tuscan Job, from the patience 
with which he bore the horrible leprosy which afflicted 
him for twenty-two years. Bartolo died in 1299, aged 
seventy-two, and, by his desire, was buried in St. Agostino. 
So many miracles were worked at his tomb, particularly 
on possessed persons, that a railing was placed round it 
in 1359 for safety, and in 1488 the commune of San 
Gimignano determined to set aside the product of the 
grist tax for three years in order to erect a chapel worthy 
of his fame, and Benedetto da Majano was charged with 
the work. On the front of the marble sarcophagus is a 

1 66 Italian Sketches. 

bronze slab with the words, Ossa Divi Bartoli Gemini- 
anensis malorum geniorum fugatoris, and on either side is 
sculptured an angel ; below, in the " dossale " of the altar, 
are seated statuettes of Faith, Hope, and Charity, and a 
predella, with scenes from the life of St. Bartolo. Above 
the sarcophagus is a lovely roundel, an alto-relievo of the 
Madonna and Child, in a rich frame of cherubs' heads, 
flowers, and leaves. Two exquisitely sculptured angels 
stand in front, adoring the Virgin; on either side is a 
candelabrum of fine design ; while from the arch above a 
curtain of white marble, delicately arabesqued in gold, 
hangs in folds so light that one could fancy it moved 
with the draught from the open door. 

Many are the churches and convents in San Gimi- 
gnano, and all contain fine pictures or frescoes, or 
sculpture; but we were bent on seeing the view from 
the Rocca di Montestaffoli, the castle built in 1354 by 
order of the Florentines after they had subjugated San 
Gimignano. High behind the Collegiate Church we 
climbed a rough road towards the ruin, and found our- 
selves on the threshing-floor of a peasant's house. We 
were welcomed by a smiling contadina with several pretty 
children, one of whom was despatched to find Gigino to 
show us the way. A handsome young fellow came out 
of the stable and led us through the house, upstairs and 
downstairs, into the orchard, which covers about a 
quarter of a mile, and was once the courtyard of the 

San Gimignano delle Belle Torre. 167 

castle. The machicolated walls are high, here and there 
interrupted by round towers, now used for storing hay, 
straw, beans, and agricultural implements. In the centre 
was a huge well, with a narrow neck and sides sloping 
outwards, all covered with a trellis of peaches and vines. 
We mounted to the top of the largest tower, and were 
well rewarded for our climb. Towards the north, was 
the Capucine Convent, surrounded with grey walls and 
dark cypresses ; further back lay the town of Gambasso ; 
and in the far distance the two tall towers of San Miniato 
al Tedesco, a landmark for sixty miles round, stood out 
dark against the sky. Certaldo, the birthplace of 

" Him who form'd the Tuscan's siren tongue," 
was pointed out to us with pride by the peasant lad, and 
then a purple-black storm-cloud swept up, hiding the 
distant hills and towers and grey townlets, while in front 
the sun gilded the white villas. We turned southwards, 
and saw another storm rising, and in a few moments the 
rival clouds hurtled and crashed together, and a thunder- 
bolt fell straight as an arrow towards Colle. Gigino 
crossed himself and muttered a prayer, while we were 
lost in admiration at the play of light and shade on the 
rolling landscape, and on the weatherbeaten towers of 
San Gimignano lit up with brilliant patches of yellow on 
their summits, where St. Fina's flower was in full bloom. 
Below us were the grey, crumbling walls of the old fortress, 
garlanded with ivy and clematis, and fringed with inses, 

168 Italian Sketches. 

wallflowers, and peach-blossom ; where once was fighting 
and bloodshed, the peaceful olives shimmered silver- 
bright as their slender branches were tossed hither and 
thither by the storm-wind, and at their feet the gladioli 
were just showing pink flowers and the grass was thick 
with star-like daisies. 

We found an excellent dinner at the primitive little 
inn, next door to the Municipal Palace, and some of 
the Vernaccia wine, celebrated by Redi in his popular 
poem, "Bacco in Toscana." 

" Se vi e alcuno, a cui non piaccia 

La Vernaccia 
Vendemmiata in Pietrafitta, 


Fugga via dal mio cospetto. " * 

We had remarked what a fine face the old hostess 
had, and she told us that she was the last descendant 
of Michael Angelo Buonarotti. Bitterly did she complain 
that her great-uncle had left all his patrimony to the city 
of Florence to keep up the Michael Angelo Museum. 
"If he had left me only a few thousand francs I might 
have made such an inn. I have written to Umberto, 
the king, to beg him to lend me two thousand francs, 
to make my place worthy of the strangers who come. 
You see we were such simple folk in the old days, and 

* "If there is any one who does not like Vernaccia vintaged at 
Pietrafitta, interdicted, cursed, let him fly from me." 

San Gimignano delle Belle Torre. 169 

now people are very luxurious. But he has not answered 
me," added she, with a sigh. We were, however, very- 
comfortable, and the whole Giusti family did their best 
to entertain us, even getting us the municipal box at the 
theatre for four shillings, where we saw La porteuse de 
pain, in Italian, very well given. The principal actress 
had been with Salvini in London, playing Desdemona 
to his Othello. We retired to rest at midnight, but the 
rank and fashion of San Gimignano did not leave the 
theatre till past two. 

Next day we drove to Volterra, quoting Swinburne's 
beautiful lines as we left the old town behind us : — 

"And far to the fair south-westward lightens, 
Girdled and sandaled and plumed with flowers, 

At sunset over the sun-lit lands, 
The hillside's crown where the wild hill brightens, 
Saint Fina's town of the beautiful towers, 

Hailing the sun with a hundred hands." 



All the forestieri (strangers) have flown north, for my 
countrymen have a knack of leaving Italy just before 
she is clothed in her full beauty. June, when it does 
not rain, is a lovely month. The hay has been got in, 
and the fields are all bright with fresh, green grass ; the 
corn is turning golden yellow, and waiting for the 24th 
of June, before which day no well-thinking Tuscan — who 
all worship St. John, the protecting saint of Florence, 
most devoutly; chiefly, I believe, on account of the 
fireworks and fun which celebrate his day in the City 
of Flowers — ever thinks of reaping. Many a baroccio, 
piled high with openwork baskets and boxes full of 
yellow and rose-coloured cocoons, is met, going from 
the various fattorie or farms to the silk-mills at Pescia. 
The fireflies glint and glance all over the country, 
causing the moon to look pale, and in the daytime 
the cicale buzz and drum from every tree. 

On the 1 st of July we left Florence for Pontedera — 
a clean, prosperous little town on the Pisan line of rail- 
way — where we found a wonderful ramshackle carriage 

172 Italian Sketches. 

awaiting us. The firocaccia, or carrier, of the Bagni di 
Casciana, imagined that English people could not stand 
the sun, and so had brought a kind of enormous square 
box on wheels, which went at a capital pace along the 
excellent road, as smooth as a bowling-green, in the 
valley of the little river Era. 

At the village of Ponsacco one leaves the high-road 
and strikes up towards the hills. In old times Ponsacco 
was a fortified town, and in 1363 was taken, during the 
wars between Pisa and Florence, by the Florentines, 
after a desperate resistance. It reverted, however, to 
its old ruler, and in 1406 stood another siege, and 
capitulated, with military honours, to Florence, who 
governed it mildly and increased its prosperity. But, 
according to the old proverb, Fiorentini ciechi, Pisan 
traditori, Senesi matti, Lucchesi signori (The Florentines 
are blind, the Pisans traitorous, the Sienese mad, and 
the Lucchese fine gentlemen), the Pisans sent a certain 
Ser Niccolb Piccinino to raise the population against 
their new masters, who were nearly all murdered. 
Florence, furious at this insult, marched with a large 
force against Ponsacco and again took it, after a tre- 
mendous fight. The Council of Pisa, many of whose 
members had possessions in the valley of the Era, called 
the Venetians to their aid and re-conquered the place. 
They, however, took the precaution of dismantling the 
fortress, and throwing down the walls, and were left in 

The Baths of Casciana in July. 173 

quiet possession until the times of the Medici, when 
Ferdinando gave Ponsacco, with the fine Medicean villa 
of Camugliano, to the Marquis Filippo Niccolini, one 
of his devoted courtiers. 

The fields are cultivated like a market-garden, and 
the crops of corn, maize, hemp, flax, and vines were 
most luxuriant. The canes grew from eight to ten feet 
high, stout and vigorous, while the mulberry-trees are 
all pollarded at four feet from the ground, and in many 
places formed hedges. We gradually rose to five 
hundred feet above the sea, which is about twenty 
miles away, and one feels the influence of the sea- 
breeze in the delicious, cool, invigorating air. The 
banks and hedges were ablaze with wild roses, honey- 
suckle, a brilliant chrome-yellow chrysanthemum, large 
white convolvulus, and a mallow with mauve-pink flowers 
of most graceful growth. 

A nine miles' drive through this laughing landscape 
brought us to the Baths of Casciana, known to the 
Romans as a health-restoring place. 

Bagno di Casciana is a small village with a piazza, 
where stands the Casino and a church, Sta. Maria de 
Aquis, which existed as a priory in 823 ; it has been, 
however, so often repaired that little of the ancient 
structure is left. In old times the place was called 
Castrum de Aquis, or ad Aquas, and afterwards Bagni 
d'Acqui, till some forty years ago its name was changed 

174 Italian Sketches. 

by an edict of the municipal council of Lari to Bagni di 
Casciana, thus coupling it with the little town of Casciana, 
which is on the hill about two miles away, and whose in- 
habitants most cordially dislike the people of the Bagni, 
who return their hatred with interest. 

Bagno d'Acqui (or di Casciana) is mentioned in various 
ancient documents, chiefly belonging to Volterra and to 
the Abbey of Morrona, which was founded in 1089 by 
Ugoccione, son of Count Gugliemo Bulgaro and of the 
Countess Cilia, and given to the order of the Camaldoli, 
together with all the land, streams, and aqueducts lying 
between the Sora and the Caldana. Twenty years after 
this the sons of Ugoccione increased the donation, and 
made over to the monks half of the land in the district 
of the Corte Aquisana, and Vivaja cum acquis and 
acqueductibus, etc. ; so that the baths came into the 
possession of the Church in 1109. The convent of the 
Badia held this large extent of country until 1135, when 
the Abbot Gherardo sold to Uberto, Archbishop of Pisa, 
part of the hill, and the castle and district of Acqui 
called Vivaja. In 1148 Pope Eugenius III. confirmed 
Guidone, Abbot of Morrona, in all his privileges, and in 
the possession of what remained of the district of the 
Corte Aquisana, of the baths and acqueducts as far as 
the Cascina (Balneum et aquceductus usque in Casinam). 
In 1 152 the Abbot Jacopo of Morrona sold the pos- 
sessions of Montevaso and Montanino to the Archbishop 

The Baths of Casciana in July. 175 

of Pisa, to raise funds for building the monastery of 
Morrona, which still exists, and in 13 16 the Abbot 
Silvester d'Anghiari added the cloisters. The abbey- 
church is of far more ancient date, and possesses a 
quaint picture, said to be anterior to Cimabue. 

In 1482 the monastery was suppressed in spite of the 
opposition of the Camaldolese order, and all their pos- 
sessions were bestowed on the bishops of Volterra, who 
had long hankered after them, and who turned the 
monastery into a dwelling-house and the church into 
a private oratory. 

Popular tradition assigns the foundation of the baths 
to the famous Countess Mathilde, guided to the place 
by her pet hawk, who had lost his feathers, and 
regained them after dipping in the waters. In 131 1 
the Republic of Pisa ordered the baths to be re-built, 
and, with some modifications, they existed till seven- 
teen years ago, when the present Casino and baths 
were erected. Formerly the men bathed in the basin 
of the warm spring itself, and from thence the water 
overflowed to the women's bath, losing a consider- 
able portion of heat in the transit. The lepers' bath 
was further off, and last came a place for horses. The 
women rebelled against using the water after the men, 
and petitioned to be allowed to bathe all together, if a 
dress per tutelare la decenza (for the tutelage of decency) 
was worn. This was refused, but the basin where the 

176 Italian Sketches. 

mineral water comes bubbling up out of the earth was 
divided in half by boards, and thus the women were 
placed on an equality with the men. 

Now there are good baths of white marble, with an 
incessant stream of water direct from the spring always 
flowing, a doctor is in attendance, and the whole thing 
is comfortable and well arranged. 

In the Archives of Florence there is a very amusing 
document, dated 7th September, 1575, and emanating 
from Li Magnifici Signori Nove Conservatori delta Juris- 
ditione et Dominio Fiorentino, who were very irate at 
the disorder and inconvenience which arose because the 
inhabitants of Bagno ad Acqua did not observe the 
statutes drawn up, had no care of the baths, and did not 
prevent the insolence practised by evil-minded persons, 
who went to the said baths more to air their caprices 
than for any need of curing aches and pains. The said 
magistrates, seeing that the Divine Majesty and nature 
had bestowed such a treasure on their dominions as 
these most salubrious baths, desire that all men should 
aid in maintaining them unsullied from every kind of 
evil custom and insolence practised by the aforesaid 
people, who only sought amusement, etc. 

The ancient tower, part of which is still inhabited by 
poor people, at Petraja, as the upper portion of Bagno 
di Casciana is called, was doubtless part of the Castello 
di Acqui, chief centre of the district Corte Aquisana, 

The Baths of Casciana in July. 177 

which existed in 1090, before which date no records 
exist, they having perished in a fire, following a pestilence 
which occurred about that time. 

One skirts round the cluster of small cottages sur- 
rounding the old tower, on the winding road from Bagno 
di Casciana up to the ruin of the castle of Parlascio on 
the summit of the hill. It is a good climb, but the road 
is, as usual, excellent Leaving Vivaja on the right, a 
quaint little hillock, on which stood a church which was 
utterly destroyed by the earthquake of 1846, one passes 
under some fine chestnut and cherry trees. The under- 
growth is fern and heather, and the yellow tiger-lilies 
glowed in the broken sunlight. 

Parlascio is a huge bluff of rock, rising sheer out of 
the hill. On a plateau near the summit is a little church 
and three or four cottages. A marble head with a Gothic 
inscription is let into the wall on the right hand of the 
church door, and on the other a long Gothic inscription 
surrounds a small bas-relief of a bishop. As a handsome 
contadina told me : — 

"Ah! fioverini, sono morti tanti anni fa; erano 
sacerdotV (Ah ! poor things, they died many years ago ; 
they were priests). 

The view from the platform of rock on which the little 
church stands is magnificent. To the left Monte Moro, 
behind which lies Leghorn, stands out black against the 
sky ; and the sea, with here and there a white sail glinting 


i;8 Italian Sketches. 

in the sun, stretches far away. Pisa, with the Carrara 
mountains behind, lies in the soft green plain, and in 
front is a curious, broken landscape, rounded, water- 
washed hillocks, each crowned by a grey townlet with 
its tall campanile ; the haze caused by the heat made the 
whole land look like a large opal. The nearest grey 
town is Morrona, standing on the peak of a hill, near 
which, further along the ridge, lies the abbey, now the 
villa of a rich Livornese. To the far right Volterra rears 
her weather-beaten towers to the sky, perched on the 
extreme edge of a high hill like an eagle's nest. 

Behind the church a steep little path leads up to the 
summit of the ancient castle of Parlascio, whose ruins are 
now covered by a vineyard. All memory of its history 
has vanished from among the peasantry, and I could find 
no mention of it prior to the thirteenth century in the 
archives of the Abbey of Morrona. Over the door of 
the church is an inscription, saying that it was conse- 
crated on the 26th May, 1444 (Pisan style), and built by 
the Counts of Upezzinghi of Pisa, lords of the castle. 

We skirted the top of a long ridge of hills and drove 
through, or rather round Casciana, to Lari, the seat of 
the pretor, or magistrate, and of the municipal council, 
and chief place of the commune. Lari is a nice little 
town, perched on the top of a hill ; and out of the centre 
of the market-place rises a quadrangular castle, built of 
red brick. The massive walls, rising at an acute angle, 

The Baths oh Casciana in July. 179 

stand frowning some hundred feet above one, perfectly- 
smooth — no bastion, no tower, breaks the line. 

In 1067 Lari is mentioned in a judicial sentence given 
at Pisa as a Corte and castle of Gottfredo, Marchese di 
Toscana. It must then have become Pisan, as the 
people of Lari took part in the rising against the Re- 
public of Pisa in 11 64, who sent a small army to enforce 
obedience. In 1230 the Upezzinghi retired there from 
their possession of Mazzamgamboli, and it is believed 
that they built the first castle on the summit of the hill, 
afterwards considerably enlarged and strengthened. It 
appears that they made over to the Archbishop of Pisa 
all their rights over Lari, for in 1375 the inhabitants 
deliberated that it was most inconvenient to hire a 
house every six months for the Captain of the Colle 
Pisane, or Pisan Hills, who came to distribute justice, 
so they determined to buy a residence for that purpose. 

Lari and its dependencies came into the possession 
of the Republic of Florence in 1406, at the same time as 
Pisa ; but for a long period the Grand Dukes of Tuscany 
paid a small annual tribute to the Pisan Archbishop. 
The governors of Lari after that time were called Vicario, 
and the first Florentine who held the office was Angelo 
di Giovanni da Uzzano. 

On the south side of the castle a flight of ninety-five 
steps leads up to the gateway of the courtyard ; half-way 
is a large cistern, hollowed out of the rock, decorated 

1S0 Italian Sketches. 

with the Pitti and Delia Scala arms, made in 1448 for 
the public benefit. The courtyard is very picturesque ; 
an old well is at one end, and the walls of the houses 
are covered with escutcheons and coats-of-arms of the 
various Vicarii. Several famous Florentine names are 
there, their arms done in Delia Robbia ware, and sur- 
rounded by the well-known wreaths of fruit and flowers. 
Rinuccini, Peruzzi, Capponi and Delia Stufa recalled the 
supremacy of the old Republic ; and above all were the 
balls of the Medici, ever-present on anything grand or 
interesting in Tuscany. 

It is recorded that, in 141 4, the Vicario Niccolo di 
Roberto Davanzati, ancestor of Bernardi, whose transla- 
tion of Tacitus is celebrated, reformed the communal 
statutes. In 1523 Jacopo di Bongiann Gianfigliazzi was 
the Vicario, and at a later date the following macaronic 
lines were inscribed under his escutcheon : — 

" Ero casa caduca, abbietta e vile, 
Minacciavo rovina ad ogni vento, 
In me non era loggia ne cortile, 
Ma ogni cosa piena di spavento. 
Or surgo come casa signorile, 
Non fu dal ciel favor mai tardo o lento, 
Per grazia d'esso nobil Gianfigliazzo, 
Di vil tugurio divento palazzo." 

(" I was a fallen house, abject and vile, 
Threatening ruin with every wind ; 
I possessed no colonade, nor courtyard, 
And everything was full of horror. 

The Baths of Casciana in July. 181 

Now I rise like a noble house, 

Ne'er did the favour of Heaven come too late. 

By your grace, noble Gianfigliazzo, 

From a vile hole I became a palace.") 

The writer of this must have overlooked the distich 
under the Delia Robbia arms of Bartolomeo Capponi, 
who was Vicar io in 1525 : — 

" Temporis et muri ssevas subitura ruinas 
Transtulit intutum signa benignus amor. 
Qui struxit fastu longe, remotis ab omni 
Nomine Capponius Bartholomeus erat." 

(" With great love he rendered safe these walls, which threatened 
instant ruin. Bartholomew Capponi, for such was his name, was 
the man who had this thought, without seeking for fame.") 

In 1524 Alessandri di Pietro di Mariotto was Vicario, 
and his arms are repeated on a most lovely altar-piece by 
Luca Delia Robbia in the little chapel. It represents 
the Virgin and Child and an angel, and is surrounded by 
a splendid garland of flowers and fruit. The garrulous 
old custode showed us the prisons — very ghastly places — 
and opening a postern door, took us to an outside 
walk all around the top of the castle walls. We then 
saw that the houses in the courtyard were mere shells, 
only containing one room in depth, and we looked down 
the dizzy height into the tortuous streets below, and 
beyond over the sunny plain at Pisa, whose leaning 
tower could be distinctly seen. 

Sun-dials are frequent on the farmhouses, and some 

182 Italian Sketches. 

had most poetical conceits written around or over them. 
Profoundly sad is — Segno le ore si, ma non fiiu quelle (I 
mark the hours, 'tis true, but no longer those gone by). 
Per i felici ed i tristi, segno ugualmente le ore (For the 
happy and the sad, I equally mark the hours), is also 
pretty, but less original and terse. 

Next day we drove through Soianella and Soiana up 
to Morrona, a grey, old-world, weather-beaten place, 
with no traces of its ancient splendour left. Under the 
walls of Soiana Pier Capponi fell — the contemporary and 
friend of Savonarola, and one of the most strenuous 
defenders of Florentine liberties against the Medici. He 
is famous for his answer to Charles VIII. of France, who 
tried to conquer Florence, and to obtain from her large 
sums of money when on his road to Naples in 1493. 
To the threats of the King, Pier Capponi proudly 
replied — 

" Voi suonerete le vostre trombe, not suoneremo le nostre 
campane " (You may sound your trumpets, we will sound 
our bells). 

The fortifications have long since vanished, but these 
small villages are picturesque enough, the stairs being 
outside the houses, and various small loggie and balco- 
nies making deep patches of shade, where the inhabitants 
sit at their work. The views were magnificent, particu- 
larly from the high platform on which stands the small 
church of Morrona, rising some five hundred feet 

The Baths of Casciana in July. 183 

above the plain, built where in ancient times stood the 

Geologically, the whole country is extremely interest- 
ing. Here and there blue-grey cliffs rise perpendicularly, 
apropos to nothing at all, one hundred or more feet out 
of the red earth, and the roads are in some places formed 
of the remains of huge oyster shells and queer fossils. 
The contadini are pleasant and civil in manner, delighted 
to tell one the names of the various villages and towns, 
and evidently unused to visitors. Our advent at Morrona 
caused quite a commotion, and, as we stood near the 
church, admiring the panoramic view, I had a circle of 
small children sitting on their heels, staring open-mouthed, 
while their mothers smiled and hoped I did not mind 
such bad manners. JE un gran divertimento per loro (It 
is a great amusement for them). 

Some of the girls are strikingly beautiful — very dark, 
with jet-black hair, fine eyes, and delicate features. The 
men, too, are good looking, and have small and curiously 
round heads. They have a frank, nice way about them, 
and, though terribly poor, will show the very little there 
is to see in their villages with a graceful kindliness of 
manner quite deprecating the idea of being paid for their 

From Morrona we went on to Terricciola, a clean 
townlet with houses which had once seen better days. 
The church, a fine red-brick building, has been spoiled, 

184 Italian Sketches. 

and they were adding a chapel on to one side, thus 
destroying the little that was left of the old building. 
The piazza and the church occupy the site of the ancient 
castle, which was taken and retaken several times during 
the wars between Florence and Pisa. Over the door of 
the sacristan's cottage was built into the wall the front 
of rather a fine Etruscan cinerary urn, with a reclining 
female figure above, and un Pagano con animali (a 
Pagan with animals), as the old man carefully explained 
it to be, underneath, which had been dug up there 
long ago. 

From Terricciola we descended a winding road into 
the valley of the Cascina, and skirted the base of the 
bare, water-washed hill on which stands the monastery 
of Morrona, an enormous square edifice built around a 
courtyard, with some fine trees near it. The olives 
grow to a large size all over this part of Tuscany, the 
tufa soil suiting them well. There is a tradition that an 
underground passage connects the monastery with the 
Villa of San Marco, the residence of the bishop of the dio- 
cese. All the country around is tunnelled with caves, and 
at Terricciola the farmers still keep their grain in the old 
buche di grano, or corn cisterns, hollowed out of the rock. 
The stone-cutters, whose name is legion, have a way of 
breaking the stones into long slabs, used as supports to 
the pergole of vines, which I never saw before. They 
cut a slight channel in the stone and insert flakes of iron ; 

The Baths of Casciana in July. 185 

between these are placed wedges, and then the man 
gives little taps with a hammer, very much as though he 
were playing on a gigantic giglira, to the long row of 
wedges. On a sudden the stone gives a hollow sigh and 
starts asunder. Petrified shells and plants are of 
frequent occurrence in the rock, and some are very fine. 

Reaping is also different here from other parts of 
Tuscany. The co?itadini cut off the ears of corn with a 
sickle in small handfuls, leaving two or three feet of 
straw standing, which is afterwards mown with scythes. 
An old peasant, seeing me watch his operations, ceased 
work for a moment, and, with a twinkle in his eye, 
quoted, like a true Tuscan who knows and loves his old 
proverbs : — 

" La sa, Signora, ' Quando il grano £ ne' campi, E di 
Dio e de' SantV" (You know, ma'am, "When the corn 
is in the field, it belongs to God and the saints "). 

The contadini work hard; in the fields at daylight — 
they often do not return home till nine in the evening ; 
and we met women and young girls staggering under 
huge loads of green grass, cut on the hills and carried 
down on their heads, after the day's work, to sell for 
a few centimes in the village. This habit of carrying jars 
of water, baskets of fruit, and bundles of fodder on the 
head, gives the contadine an easy, graceful walk, recalling 
the peculiar swing of the Arab women. The men just 
now look very spruce and neat, as a new straw hat and, 

186 Italian Sketches. 

if possible, a new shirt, is " the thing " before reaping. 
The women never wear hats; they tie a handkerchief 
under the chin, and pull it over their eyes like a hood, 
folding another several times thick on the top of their 
heads, to keep off the sun. 

To the east of Bagno di Casciana, on the Colle Mon- 
tanine, rises a steep hill, called the "Rocca della Con- 
tessa Mathilde," and of course said to have been one of 
her castles. It is rather fatiguing to get at, as, after a 
two miles' drive up hill, one has to walk another mile 
and a half up a rough road to the foot of the " Rocca," 
which rises like half a huge apple out of the very top of 
the line of hills. The view from the summit was magni- 
ficent ; for forty miles and more one sees the country on 
every side, and while we were standing entranced with 
the landscape, an inky-black cloud suddenly swept up 
from no one knew where, and blotted Volterra entirely 
out of sight, while the thunder growled ominously, and 
the wind rose. It was a most impressive sight, particu- 
larly when suddenly the clouds rolled asunder a and 
flash of lightning shot as straight as a plummer's line 
down to the earth. We expected a drenching, but the 
storm disappeared as quickly as it had risen, and after 
inspecting the remains of two small round towers, a wall 
about three feet high with traces of a curtain wall beyond, 
and settling in our own minds that the great countess 
certainly never lived in such an eagle's nest, we wended 

The Baths of.Casciana in July. 187 

our way down hill to the carriage. One does not see a 
human creature all the way ; the only sign of civilization 
was a pile of sacks filled with oak bark, awaiting the 
donkeys who alone could face such a path. The butter- 
flies are numerous and very beautiful. There was a large 
orange fellow flitting about whose wings faded off to 
lemon yellow; another, very big, was the colour of a 
magpie's wing, blue-black shot with green ; and one was 
very odd, as it seemed to fly the wrong way, having two 
tails to the hind wings which looked like antennae. I 
am afraid my description is most unscientific; all I 
noticed was the great variety of butterflies and. moths, 
and their colours, so gorgeous in the brilliant sunlight. 

Bagni di Casciana can be reached also from Fauglia, 
on the Maremma line, about the same distance as Pon- 
tedera, but a more hilly drive. Fauglia is a bright, clean 
place, with fine villas and country-houses in and near it. 
A picturesque old church, on the outskirts of the town, 
stands on the very end of a small hill ; its elegant cam- 
panile, rather Lombard in style, is fast going to ruin, 
having been struck by lightning and shaken by the earth- 
quake of 1846. From Fauglia one descends through a 
gorge clothed with stunted oak, chestnut, and nut copse ; 
fern, tall Mediterranean heather, gum cistus and anisette 
forming the undergrowth, with the familiar yellow broom 
and gorse, into the valley of the Tora, a small, brawling 
stream, crossed by a good bridge. From there begins a 

188 Italian Sketches. 

three-mile hill, up a capital road, across a queer, bare 
country, with great fissures and rents in it, as though it 
had been torn with a large rake. Much land has been 
reclaimed and put under vine-cultivation. The waste 
land is overgrown with lentisk and wild myrtle, which 
scented the warm air and glittered in the bright sun. 
Larks innumerable arose as we drove along, hovering 
like large moths high in the air, and singing aloud. To 
the right, lying on the slope of the hill, is the old castle 
of Gello Mattacino, lately restored and inhabited. There 
are records of a church there in the archives of Lucca as 
early as 764, and the castle used to be called Gello delle 
Colline, or, " of the hills," until a Florentine, Alessandro 
di Matteocini, bought it, and gradually his name was 
given to the castle and lands. A short dip brings us 
near to Casciana, and then another hill, into the Par- 
lascio road, whence we bowled merrily down to the 

Horses and carriages are good and wonderfully cheap. 
We had a capital mare, an open pony chaise which would 
have held four, and paid at the rate of fivepence a mile ; 
the houses are fairly comfortable, and the chief adminis- 
trator of the baths, Dr. Rimediotti, is most courteous 
and kind. We found the mineral baths quite as effica- 
cious as Aix-les-Bains, and witnessed some really mar- 
vellous cures of rheumatism, gout, and paralysis. For the 

The Baths of Casciana in July. 189 

information of any medical reader I give an analysis of 
the waters, made by a competent chemist : — 






Carbonic acid 


Saline Matters, etc 


Sulphate of lime ... 


Carbonate of lime 


Carbonate of magnesia 


Carbonate of iron 

I '02 

Sulphate of magnesium 


Sulphate of sodium 


Chloride of sodium 


Chloride of magnesia ... 








Organic matter 


Residuum of complex composition ... 



Pure water ... 


Density ... 

... 1,003*02 

Traces of lithia. 

The water is quite limpid, and has a peculiarly soft 
feeling j the skin feels almost slimy after remaining some 
time in the bath, and is stained slightly red, owing, I 
suppose, to the iron. 

The maximum temperature of the water is 35°*2o 
(Centigrade) ; the minimum 33°'9o. 

» ~ ' • > * . 



(A True Story.) 

The sun had just set behind the Apennines, leaving the 
high lands bathed in a golden light, while the clouds 
were deep blood-red and purple, and the plain was 
already plunged in darkness. 

In the bright Tuscan land, the transition from day to 
night is far more rapid than in our northern clime ; the 
mysterious charm of twilight lasts but a few moments. 

The heat was oppressive, and a slight haze rose from 
the valleys, where the small brooks, which in winter 
become destructive torrents, trickled in slow, thin threads 
of silver towards the Arno, bordered by the graceful 
blue-green canes and by a row of tall poplars. The 
terraced vineyards stretched far away in regular lines, 
every plant bearing its wealth of golden or dark purple 
fruit, drinking up the heat given out by the baked earth 
— the very oaks seemed to be longing for a thunder- 
storm to wash the dust off their leaves. 

A good-looking, stalwart young peasant, with wavy 


Italian Sketches. 

chestnut hair, and a bright pleasant face, lit up by a 
pair of blue eyes, came slowly through the wood, his 
blue-and-white striped linen jacket thrown jauntily over 
one shoulder, as is the custom among the Tuscan 
peasantry. He was singing an old rispetto, which has 
been handed down from father to son, and is said to 
date from the seventeenth century : — 




- — 3- 

O Ron-di - nel - la , 
O swal-low, swal - low, 

die vai sul - lo 
with the sea be 




Ti ri -lu-ce lepen - nequan-do 
H ow fair thy feathers shine, how free they 

vo - le ; 
ho-ver ; 

Dam-mi una pen-na del - le tue bell' a - li, 
Give me one feather from thy wings, I pri-thee, 

Vo' scri-verun - a letter al mio a - mo 
Fain would I write a let- ter to my lo 






E q'uan-do l'av-r6 scrit-ta e fat - ta bel - la, 
And when I've written it and made it charm-ing, 


La Gioconda. 


ren - de - ro la pen-na o Ron-di - nel 
give thee back thy fea-ther, swallow dar 






e fat - ta d'o - ro 
and gilt it o - ver, 

quan - dol'a - vro scritta 
when I've writ-ten it 


^gj^jJ^ gP 

Ti ren - de - ro la penna o mio te - so 
I'll give thee back thy leather, sweet sea-ro - 







■\ Tra la la la, tra la la la la 

*r-H — as 

i ^^ Ei^^^w g 



la, Tra la la la, tra la la la la 






; Amor che passi la notte cantando. 
Ed io meschina sto nel letto e sento, 
Volto le spalle alia mia mamma e piango ; 
Di sangue son le lacrime che getto. 
Di la del letto ho fatto un grosso flume, 
Da tanto lagrimar non vedo lume. 

194 Italian Sketches. 

Di la dal letto un grosso fiume ho fatto, 
Da tanto lagrimar son cieca affato." 

(" love, you pass, singing, while night is sleeping ; 
I, wretched I, lie on my bed and listen ; 
I to my mother turn my shoulders weeping ; 
Blood are the tears that on my pillow glisten. 
Beyond the bed I've set a broad stream flowing, 
With so much weeping I am sightless growing ; 
Beyond the bed I've made a flowing river ; 
With so much weeping I am blind for ever.") * 

Giulio was a peasant on the estate of a hard padrone, 
or landowner, who held to all the privileges and power 
still possessed by landowners in Tuscany. He had 
fallen in love with the only daughter of a peasant living 
some three miles away from the podere, or farm, where 
his own family had been for many generations, and the 
pretty, bright-eyed Gioconda fully returned his affection. 

But the course of true love never runs smooth, and so 
it happened that the owner of Castel Poggio, where 
Gioconda's father, old Bettini, lived, objected to the 
match. He insisted on her marrying some young fellow 
who could leave his own family, and, as they say in 
Tuscany, " enter the house " of his wife and become one 
of her family. The Bettinis had lost their two sons in 
the wars for the union of Italy, and a son-in-law who 
could take the place of one of the dead lads was a sine 
qua non. Nando Bettini was getting on in life, and his 
padrone spoke seriously to him on the subject; either 

* The English version is by Mr. J. Addington Symonds. 

La Gioconda. 195 

Gioconda must marry some one who would come and 
live with them, or they must leave the podere. 

" Your fields are badly tilled, the pruning of the vines 
is always behindhand, and you are running into debt 
with me for corn. You spend your own small savings 
in paying hired labourers who scamp their work, and it 
cannot go on. Gioconda must marry and bring a 
husband into the house to help you. I will give you 
six months, for your family has been on the land for two 
hundred years, and I don't want to be hard on you. 
But I must pay my taxes, and if my land is not properly 
cultivated I cannot. This cursed Government does 
nothing but raise the taxes ; soon we landowners shall 
be beggars." 

" But, Illustrissimo " 

" No, Nando, I can listen to no objections. You are 
going to tell me again about Giulio. It is of no use. I 
cannot force Count Selvi to let Giulio leave his own 
family ; besides, you know the old feud existing between 
our families. We are not on speaking terms. You 
must find another husband for Gioconda. In my time, 
girls never fell in love. Nonsense ! you tell her to be a 
dutiful daughter, and marry some young fellow who can 
help you, and has an eye for oxen." 

Poor old Nando went home with a heavy heart. He 
was devoted to his daughter, whose name, Gioconda, 
suited her well — small, but well-made, with an oval face, 

196 Italian Sketches. 

and masses of dark-brown hair with golden light in it, 
very large dark-brown eyes, and a clear, dark com- 
plexion. She was one of the beauties of the neighbour- 
hood. Gioconda's merry ringing laugh was the delight 
of old Nando's life. She knew more stornelli and 
rispetti and old proverbs than any other girl in the 
country round, and she never sang so well as when 
Giulio chimed in a second to her bird-like clear soprano 
with his rather harsh baritone. 

Poor Giulio ! He had been up to Castel Poggio to 
help old Bettini to yoke a young ox, it being a holiday, 
so that he was not wanted at home. 

As the old man breasted the steep bit of road leading 
up to his farmhouse, which was perched on the crest of 
a hill, and still bore traces of having been fortified, he 
heard the two young people singing together as they cut 
the grass for the oxen on the slopes which kept up the 
narrow strips of land where the olives grew so well. It 
was a song Gioconda had learnt from her brothers before 
they left for the campaign whence they had never 
returned, and poor old Bettini's eyes filled with tears as 
he thought of his two bright boys who had quitted their 
home so full of hope, telling their mother that Austrian 
bullets would assuredly never harm them, as the good 
old priest, Don RafTaello, had told them to pray to Our 
Lady of Succour, and had given to each her picture, 
sewn up in a little bag of old red damask, to hang round 
their necks. 

La Gioconda, 


And now they were gone, and he was obliged to 
separate these two young people who were so happy, 
singing under the old grey olives. It was a merry lay 
and jarred painfully with the old man's sad thoughts. 



* 1 1 f C 



Be-ne - det - to chi ti fe, Fin da 

Bless-ed she who made you learn How to 




pic - co-la im - pa - rar Del- la se - ta il bel mes  
spin the silk - en thread, Where your pret - ty fin-gers 





Che fa pro - prio in - amo - rar. 
Out and in with white and red. 

Fior di 
Flow'r of 



mag - gio lo mio 
May and just one 


Che ando a far il mi - li - 
Fjeefrom barracks, back from 



- ^ * *- 

* — 


Quan-do tor 
You and I 

na sul o - nor, m'ha pro 
to - ge - ther, dear, Courting 




mes - so di 
when the sun 

spo - sar. . 
goes down. 

198 Italian Sketches. 

" Si, Carluccio, il mio tesor, 
Mi dicea che vuol amar, 
Una giovine d'onor 
Che la seta sappia far. 
Giunga il giorno e presto fuor 
Mi vedranno a passegiar, 
Abbracetto col mio amor 
Che ha deciso di sposar." 

(" Blessed she, and blessed hour, 
Where I learnt the silken trade. 
White and red, for wedding dower, 
Coin by coin, like braid with braid. 
Flow'r of May, and just one year, 
When the lads are back with spring, 
You and I together, dear, 
When the nightingales shall sing.") * 

Bettini called Giulio, who came bounding down the 
hill to meet him ; but all his gaiety vanished when he saw 
how grave and sad the old man looked. 

1 'Why, Padre Nando, what is the matter?" 
" A great deal, my son, a great deal. Things are all 
going wrong. The padrone has just declared that if 
Gioconda is not married in six months to some young 
man who can come and live with us, to help me, he will 
turn us off. I can't bear to think of my poor Elena 
having to beg her bread in her old age. It is now some 
thirty years that she has lived at Castel Poggio, and the 
children were all born there. So, Giulio, you must not 
come near us any more, and Gioconda must be a dutiful 
child and forget you." 

* The English version is by Mr. Theo. Marzials. 

La Gioconda. 199 

Bettini tried to speak severely and with the authority- 
becoming his years and his position as head of the 
family. But he failed signally. Knowing the deep 
attachment between Giulio and Gioconda, it wrung his 
heart to be obliged to separate them. Count Selvi, who 
owned the podere on which the family of Giulio lived, had 
the reputation of being a hard, cruel man, who had driven 
his wife mad by his ill-treatment. His children lived in 
terror of him, in the old villa on the hill. 

They both felt that it would be useless to beg him 
to break through his rule of never allowing a peasant to 
leave the parental roof, unless there were too many men 
in the family for the land to support. 

Giulio looked utterly miserable, but said, "You are 
right, Padre Nando, you must think first of the mother ; 
but, oh ! my poor little Gioconda ! " 

His voice failed him, and holding out his brown hand 
to the old man, who grasped it tight, he turned on his 
heel and slowly went down the hillside through the oak 

Gioconda had watched the scene from above, and 
came to meet her father, with her sickle in one hand, 
while with the other she caressed her special pet, the big 
white Maremma sheep-dog, Caro, who looked up into her 
face as though he understood all the thoughts that were 
passing through her mind. 

How pretty she looked in her striped blue-and-red 

Italian Sketches. 

cotton dress, a red handkerchief pinned coquettishly 
across her breast and one corner of her checked apron 
tucked into her girdle. The evening sun lit up her hair 
and seemed to kiss her smooth brown cheek. Old 
Nando could not help admiring his child. 

" Padre, what have you said to Giulio that he should 
go away like that, without even saying addio ; and who 
is to help me to carry up all this grass to the house ? " 

She tried hard to keep her voice steady as she spoke, 
and to prevent the tears from coming into her eyes. 

"I will tell you afterwards, my child. I must see 
your mother first. Here, give me the big bundle, you 
can take the small one." 

Father and daughter toiled slowly up the hill with 
their loads of fresh-cut grass, and old Nando went into 
the stable to feed the oxen and shake down their litter 
for the night. 

Gioconda meanwhile went upstairs to her mother, and 
said that her father had returned looking very sad, but 
refused to tell her what was the matter. " Only," added 
Gioconda, blushing, "I am sure it is something about 

The two old people sat up later than usual that night, 
and talked over the events of the day after their daughter 
had gone to bed. 

Elena said bitterly, and with a sigh, " The poor should 
not have hearts. Gioconda is a good girl, and will do her 

La Gioconda. 

duty ; but it is a hard thing to ask a girl to give up her 

When Giulio got home, he found his family in despair. 
A new levy had been called out, and it included his 
youngest brother, the Benjamin of his parents. His 
mother was in tears, as the recruits were to go to the 
Neapolitan provinces. 

" Nothing - but brigands ; no decent bread, and wine 
that you might cut with a knife," wailed she. " It is far 
worse than marching against the Austrians. Those poor 
Bettinis lost both their sons ; but at least they fought 
strangers and usurpers. But now ! To send soldiers to 
do policemen's work ! They will all die ! I shall never 
see Settimio again ! Madonna mia ! it will kill me." 

Giulio rapidly made up his mind, and, calling his father 
out of the house, begged his permission to propose him- 
self in the place of his youngest brother. 

" The authorities will be sure to accept the exchange, 
as I am taller and far stronger than Settimio, and my 
mother will be less worried about me than she would 
about my brother. I cannot stay here, so near Castel 
Poggio, and know that my poor Gioconda will be obliged 
to marry some one else ; when I am gone, she may forget 
me. Will you go and see Count Selvi, and make it all 
right with him and the bailiff? " 

In vain did his father remonstrate, Giulio bore down 
all opposition. His determination was announced to the 

Italian Sketches. 

family, and the old man went to the villa on the hill and 
begged an interview. 

He was ushered into the large, gloomy room where 
Count Selvi usually sat. The vaulted roof still bore traces 
of fresco and the doors and shutters of gilding ; some 
fine old prints hung all awry in black and gold frames on 
the walls, and a portrait of the dead countess hung 
above the writing-desk. There was no scrap of carpet 
on the brick floor, and the high-backed, old-fashioned 
chairs stood in a row against the wall, rigid, stiff, and 

"What do you want?" said the count, in a harsh 
voice, which made the old peasant wish himself at 
home again. 

"Signor Conte, my Giulio has begged me to come 
and ask your excellency's permission to go as a substitute 
for his brother Settimio, who has drawn a bad number. 
My Giulio " 

" What ! tired of being an honest peasant, and wants to 
see the world ! This comes of all the new-fangled ideas 
and teaching people to read and write who ought to dig. 
What has he to complain of?" 

"Nothing, Illustrissimo, only " The old man 

stopped short, and twirled his hat round and round. He 
did not know how to explain to the stern padrone about 
Gioconda, as he knew of the old feud between the Selvi 
and the Nicolini. 

La Gioconda. 203 

" Well, go on, I can't sit here all day," growled the 

"The truth is, signor Conte, my Giulio is in love, 
and, as he has no hope of marrying the girl, he would 
rather go as a soldier." 

"A pretty reason, truly!" sneered the count. " I 
never fell in love. The sooner he falls out of it again the 
better. He has enough to do to look after the cattle. 
I am not satisfied with your balance this year. Who is 
the girl ? " 

" The daughter of old Bettini, up at Castel Poggio," 
answered the peasant timidly. 

Count Selvi brought his clenched hand down on the 
table so hard that the room re-echoed to the blow. 

" What ! you permitted your son to have intercourse 
with peasants of the Nicolini ! Bravo ! I shall tell the 
bailiff to make up your account, and you can look out for 
another farm. Let your Giulio turn soldier or thief, it 
is all the one to me ; only never let me see him or any of 
you again. Go ! " 

Old Martelli did not dare utter a word. With an 
awkward bow, he left the room, and, seeking the bailiff, 
who was a kind and honest man, as popular as his 
master was reverse, he begged him to try and intercede 
for them. 

" We have belonged to the Selvi family for such long, 
long years," said the old man, using the familiar, patri- 

204 Italian Sketches. 

archal Tuscan way of speaking, "and you know how 
fond the poor Contessa was of my wife, when she came 
as a sweet young bride to this gloomy old villa, looking 
like arose." 

" No, no, Angelo, that would never do," answered the 
bailiff; "no one dares mention her name here. It is a 
bad business altogether, and if it were not for my young 
masters and the signorina — so like her mother, poor 
thing — I should leave to-morrow. This house is a hell 
upon earth. I will see what I can do some day, when- 
ever the count is in a better humour." 

Angelo Martelli went home, and could eat no supper. 
He said he felt as though he had seen the devil in person, 
and could not get the harsh voice of his padrone out of 
his ears. 

"I told you how it would end, Giulio, when you first 
went to see Gioconda. We are in a pretty mess. 
Suppose we are all turned out, and that I can find no 
vacant farm. To become a day-labourer at my time of 
life is a poor look-out. However, the Madonna has 
always been kind, and she will provide for us," said the 
old man reverently. 

The next week, Giulio duly presented himself to the 
syndic of his commune, and was accepted as substitute 
for his younger brother. In another ten days he would 
join the depot of his regiment, pass the medical examina- 
tion, and be drafted off to Sicily. 

La Gioconda. 205 

Gioconda was in a fever of expectation. She noticed 
how sad her parents looked, and that her mother often 
quoted old sayings about the short duration of first love 
and the duty of obedience ; but, as she rarely saw any 
neighbours, and only went to Mass with her mother on 
Sunday mornings, when Elena did not encourage idle 
conversation, she had not heard any rumour of Giulio's 
intentions. At last, to her infinite relief, he came up to 
Castel Poggio, and she received him pouting and trying 
to look offended ; but, at the sight of his grave face and 
altered manner, more like a father than a lover, all her 
little affectations vanished, and she sidled up to him, 
saying in a coaxing tone — 

" Giulio mio, what have I done to offend you ? Ask 
mother, she will tell you how good I have been, and 
how I have longed to see you j but Caro knows more of 
that, I tell him everything. Here, Caro, come here, old 
man, and salute Giulio, and wag your tail properly." 

But Giulio paid no attention to the dog's blandish- 
ments, who slunk away disappointed, and sat down 
with an air of " well, what is going to happen next ? " 

" What is the matter with you, Giulio, and what have 
I done?" reiterated Gioconda, with trembling voice. 

"Nothing, my child," he answered sadly, " only I am 
afraid you will think me cruel ; but it must be. You 
know how fond my mother is of Settimio ? Well, he has 
drawn a bad number for this new levy, and I " 

206 Italian Sketches. 

" You are not going too ? Oh, Giulio ! you cannot 
leave me ? You are only joking, only trying to frighten 
me into telling ypu what you know so well already ; that 
I love you — oh ! so much." 

The poor girl broke down, and, hiding her face, burst 
into tears. Caro could not resist this, and, looking 
defiantly at Giulio, he sidled up to his young mistress, 
poking his nose under her arm, and whining to attract 
her attention. 

" Gioconda, listen to me. Ask your parents whether 
they do not approve. I have taken Settimio's place. You 
must try and forget me. God knows it is a hard trial for 
us ; but we cannot bring ruin on both our families. You 
know what Count Selvi is, and your father will be sent 
away by his padrone if you do not marry. Ah ! Gioconda, 
my darling, my darling, to think that I should have to 
say such words to you — to tell you to marry and forget 

" They said you never loved me, and now I see it ! I 
don't care for you one bit ! Oh, Caro, Caro, why did 
you ever let him come to Castel Poggio ? " sobbed 
Gioconda, sinking down on the grass, and throwing her 
arms round the shaggy neck of the big dog, who 
looked puzzled and very much inclined to fly at his old 

" Gioconda, my child, I swear I love you more than 
life; but duty goes before everything, and I promised 

La Gioconda. 207 

your father not to come here any more. That would be 
impossible if I remained near you. So I go." 

Poor Giulio's firmness nearly forsook him, and his 
voice sounded strange and hollow. His blue eyes were 
sunken and his mouth quivered as he looked with 
infinite love on the girl crouching at his feet. 

She rose at last, very pale and quiet, and, laying her 
hand on his arm, said, "Forgive me, Giulio, you are 
right ; but as to marrying — well, we will see about that. 
I could never have left you, but then a man is so different. 
It is always duty — duty — " she repeated in a faint 
voice, as she gazed down into the plain below them with 
that fixed far-away stare which sees nothing. 

" I must say a few words to your mother, Gioconda," 
said Giulio, at last breaking the silence ; " in a day or two 
I shall be going to Florence." 

The two young people entered the courtyard of the 
old house, Caro in close attendance on his young 
mistress, and casting suspicious glances at Giulio. 

Elena was busy in the big kitchen, and looked up 
surprised at seeing them together, as her husband had 
told her that Giulio would not come to Castel Poggio 
any more. He saw her look, and hastened to say in as 
firm a voice as he could command — 

" Madre Elena, I have come to say good-bye for a 
time. I go in Settimio's stead as a soldier ; he drew a 
low number." 

208 Italian Sketches. 

" Dear, dear. Well, I hope it will be for the best, my 
son. I don't like soldiering. I hope there are no 
Austrians where you are going?" she said sadly, thinking 
of her own boys. 

" Oh no j I shall be sent to Sicily, I believe." 

" What, where the brigands live, my dear boy ? Why, 
that is worse," exclaimed she. 

Gioconda shuddered as she heard the word Sicily, 
and turned away to hide her tears. 

Elena knew well enough why Giulio was going away ; 
she came up to him, and drew his head down with both 
her hands, and kissed his forehead as she said — 

" The Madonna preserve thee, my boy. An old 
woman's blessing is not worth much, but I give thee 
mine. It is partly my fault that it has come to this, and 
I wish I could bear the penalty." 

Her wrinkled face looked almost sublime as she 
gazed sorrowfully on the young people, and her eyes 
filled with tears. 

" You have told her, I see ; it is a hard task for you." 

Giulio nodded his head ; he could not trust himself 
to speak. After a pause, he said in a low tone — 

" May she be happy, and find a good husband. Now 
I must go, or I shall cry like a baby." 

He wrung old Elena's hand, and went towards Gio- 
conda. Taking both her hands, he said — 

" My treasure, good-bye. At first you will be full of 

La Gioconda. 


sorrow, but the Madonna will help you to do your duty 
to your parents. When I return I shall find I have 
gained a sister." 

His voice failed him, and he hurried out of the house 
and down the hill, while the poor girl sobbed on her 
mother's shoulder. 

Two months passed without any tidings of Giulio 
after his first letter to his father from Palermo, and 
Gioconda grew thinner and paler, though she worked as 
hard as ever. Her singing days were over now, and old 
Bettini sighed as he saw her white face and the dark 
circles round her eyes. Several suitors were proposed, 
and came to try whether pretty Gioconda would listen 
to them; but, though civil to all, she seemed not to 
understand the flowery speeches addressed to her, and 
when her mother praised any young peasant who had 
been to the house, she looked so utterly wretched that 
Elena could not pluck up courage to go on. 

Signor Nicolini sent for Nando Bettini and inquired 
when Gioconda was to be married, as he would, accord- 
ing to custom, send up the bricklayer to whitewash the 
house. The old man confessed that he had not yet 
spoken to his daughter. 

" She looks more like dying, Illustrissimo, than marry- 
ing. The light has gone from my house. It breaks my 
heart to see her." 

" Well, well, she'll get over it. As I said before, I 


210 Italian Sketches. 

don't want to be hard on you, and we won't mention 
the subject till next summer. But I must say love-sick 
girls are very inconvenient. This is October, so you 
will have plenty of time to talk reason to pretty little 

The padrone turned away, well satisfied with his own 
kindness, and persuaded that human hearts can be con- 
trolled, as vines can be trimmed and trained. 

The winter was an unusually severe one, and poor 
Bettini had the misfortune to lose one of his pair of oxen ; 
it slipped on the road, after a thaw, and broke its thigh. 
The butcher bought it at a diminished price, and the 
loss was considerable. 

At last the old man summoned up courage to tell 
Gioconda that the future of her mother and himself lay 
with her ; either she must marry before the end of June 
or they must leave Castel Poggio, and he would have to 
descend to the condition of a day-labourer, as no one 
would give &podere to an old man without a son. 

" Find me a husband," answered she, in a toneless 
voice ; " I will do my duty. Only, padre mio, do not let 
him come here to court me." 

She kissed her father, and went out to tell Caro, who 
was her chief comforter and seemed to understand all she 
told him. The name of Giulio was never mentioned in 
the house, but Caro knew it well ; he often heard it, and 
always wagged his tail when it was whispered in his ear. 

La Gioconda. 211 

About Christmas time, news came from Sicily, and old 
Bettini heard that Giulio had distinguished himself, was 
a great favourite with his officers, and had been taken by 
the colonel as his servant. He consulted with his wife 
about telling Gioconda, and she advised him not to 
mention it. She was becoming very anxious about her 
daughter, who looked ill, and they owed so large a sum 
to their landlord, that they stinted themselves, and rarely 
ate meat save on feast days, while they only drank 
water, having given up all their share of wine to Signor 
Nicolini in diminution of their debt for corn. 

Things meanwhile were going from bad to worse at 
Villa Selvi. The count's temper was uncontrollable, and 
be gave way to such fits of passion that no servant 
would stay long in the house. The bailiff, who had been 
a peasant on the estate of the father of the late countess, 
and who had promised her, before she went hopelessly 
mad, to protect her three children, was almost at his 
wits' end, and foresaw that he would have to leave or be 
sent away. " One day he was summoned into the count's 
study, who received him with a volley of abuse. His 
second son, Lippo, had been seen in the wood which 
divided the Selvi from the Nicolini property, and pretty 
Rosina Nicolini was there also. In vain did the bailiff 
try to calm the storm j he made it worse, and at length 
he gave warning, and, throwing aside the restraint he had 
always imposed on himself, plainly told the count that he 

Italian Sketches. 

was a brute, and left the room. In the garden, he met 
his young mistress and told her what had happened. 
The poor girl entreated him to try and make it up with 
her father; he was her only friend, and she dreaded 
being left alone. 

Dinner-time arrived, and Count Selvi did not appear. 
The brothers and sister consulted together about remind- 
ing him of the hour, but for some time none dared to go 
to his den. At last, Maso, the eldest son, went to the 
door, and knocked timidly — no answer; he knocked 
again, and then, thinking that his father must be out, 
opened the door and uttered an exclamation of horror. 
His father was lying on the floor by his desk, one hand 
clenched tight on a bundle of papers, with such an 
expression of fury on his face as made the poor lad's 
blood run cold. 

He convinced himself that the count was dead, and 
then called his brother and the bailiff and went to 
break the news to his young sister. The harshness 
and severity with which they had been treated vanished 
from their minds in the presence of such a cata- 
strophe j but, in general, the count was regretted by no 
one, and it was whispered among the old peasant women 
that they had always expected him to die in some 
terrible way without the last rites of the Church, so 
that he would not go to Paradise to frighten the poor 
countess again in the next world. 

La Gioconda. 213 

Signor Nicolini heard of Count Selvi's death, and his 
pretty daughter Rosina, with the imperiousness generally- 
belonging to an only child, insisted on his going to 
the villa and offering his help to the orphans. She said 
family feuds were all nonsense, and that neighbours 
ought to be friendly and help each other, and charged 
her father to invite the young Contessina Beatrice to 
come and stay with her until the funeral was over. 
Lippo was delighted to see the father of Rosina, and 
both young men eagerly accepted the invitation for their 
sister — a delicate, nervous girl of sixteen — thanking Signor 
Nicolini heartily for his well-timed visit and sympathy. 

The death of Count Selvi caused a feeling of relief 
among his peasantry, and particularly in Giulio's family. 
Old Angelo wrote — or rather made one of his sons write, 
as he could not — to inform Giulio of what had happened, 
but the letter crossed him on the road. He had been 
wounded in a skirmish with the brigands, and had 
several severe attacks of malarious fever, so his colonel 
gave him three months' leave to recruit his strength. 
Great was the joy at home when Giulio arrived, rather 
wan and pale, but much improved in smartness, and 
holding himself so straight that his mother was never 
tired of admiring him. As soon as he heard of the 
death of the count he went to see his young padroni 
and beg their permission to marry Gioconda and leave 
his own family to enter the Bettinis' house, as soon as 
his military service was over. 

214 Italian Sketches. 

" If you, Count Lippo," said Giulio smiling, " will 
only ask the Signorina Rosina, she will persuade her 
father to let Gioconda wait another eighteen months 
for me." 

Lippo blushed scarlet, as he had no idea that his 
love for Signor Nicolini's pretty daughter was known. 
Both the young men promised to do their best, and 
they recommended Giulio to go up to Castel Poggio, 
as they had heard from the bailiff that Gioconda was 
not well, and Lippo thought that the sight of Giulio 
would do her more good than doctor's stuff. 

The young contadino went slowly through the familiar 
oak copse, thinking of the difference the death of one 
cross-grained old man made in the lives of so many 

There were no leaves on the trees, and he could 
plainly see the old half-fortified farmhouse above him. 
As he approached, he began singing a song which had 
been a favourite of Gioconda's before he left. 





Einvernoenot-te bru-na, Men-tre nell 'er - ma 

Cold in the bleak De- cem- ber, Lone in the chamber 



stan - za, Fos - ca lu - cea la lu - na, 

drea - ry, Gil - dor is gaz - ing wea - ry, 

La Gioconda. 


i^^§^ ^^a=^ 

Un pal - li - do chia-ror 
In - to the deep' - ning night, 

Can - to questa ro 
Longing, and sad, and 

< 1 LP iZ== HL 1 ^-tV^* 


man - za, II re -du - ce, Gil - dor. 

weep - ing, There in the murk moon - light. 

"Tu mi dicesti un giorno 
Con lacrime dirotte, 
Quando farai ritorno 
Chiamami, o mio tesor, 
Chiamami a mezzanotte, 
Ti volero sul cor. 

" Vieni diletta mia 
La mezzanotta appressa, 
Io gelo sulla via 
E tu non vieni ancor. 
Ti sei di me scordata 
Idolo del mio cor." 

(" Darling, have you forgotten, 
Darling, when last we parted, 
Weeping and broken-hearted, 
All that you vowed to me ? 
1 Call me,' you said, ' but call me, 
Love, I shall come to thee.' 

" Come, then, oh ! come, my darling, 
Come, for my tears are falling. 
Come, my whole soul is calling, 
Darling, come back, my own. 
No— you have quite forgotten 
I am alone — alone.") * 

Translated by Mr. Theo. Marzials. 

2i6 Italian Sketches. 

Gioconda was preparing a warm meal for her father 
on his return from digging in the fields, and could not 
believe her ears when she heard the well-known voice. 

" Madonna ! — He is dead ! " she exclaimed, turning 
white and faint. 

In another moment, Giulio, forgetting wound and 
fever, sprang up the steps, and, clasping her to his breast, 
he kissed her wavy hair, murmuring, " My treasure, my 
darling ! I have suffered so much for you, and now I 
have you and mean to keep you." 

Gioconda was too happy to speak. How she had 
longed to see Giulio again ! What impossible plans 
she had made in the long nights, when she could not 
sleep, for softening Count Selvi's heart and obtaining 
Signor Nicolini's permission to wait for her lover. Now 
all had come right, and she gave a deep sigh of intense 
relief as she leant her head on Giulio's shoulder. 

He held her at arm's-length, and then saw that his 
young padrone had spoken the truth. 

Gioconda was indeed changed, and a pang went 
through Giulio's heart at the thought that he might yet 
lose her. Her brown eyes were preternaturally large, 
and she looked pale and wan. 

"Why, dearest, you look half-starved," said he 
anxiously, but trying to smile gaily. 

" So I am," answered she, blushing scarlet, " of your 
company and of the old songs; but what does this 

La Gioconda. 217 

mean? I don't understand how you are here, my 

" Well, I was wounded, and then I got fever, and so 
my colonel sent me home, where I heard of Count 
Selvi's death; and so I went to my young padroni, 
and you know Conte Lippo is in . love with your young 
padrona, and she will beg for us, and so, and so " 

" And so, you good-for-nothing, this is the manner in 
which you keep away from Castel Poggio," rang out old 
Bettini's voice, more cheerfully than it had done for 
many a long month. "Well, my son," he continued, 
" I am right glad to see you again, and so will Elena be. 
As to Gioconda, I suppose she has told you already how 
grieved she is at the sight of your face. You must come 
and put some colour into her cheeks, my boy, and help 
me get the land a little into order. I am sadly behind- 
hand with the pruning this year, and we owe the padrone 
such a large sum that we have been on short commons 

" Ah ! well, Padre Nando, all will come right now ; 
and, as they don't want me at home, I shall come as 
your garzone (hired labourer), if you will have me, 
and we'll soon get things into proper order." 

Elena now came in, and her joy was quite childish. 
Giulio had always been her especial favourite, and she 
had prayed hard to her patron saint that she should 
manage that he and Gioconda might be married some 

218 Italian Sketches. 

With the instinctive good-breeding which is so strong 
in the Tuscan peasantry, Giulio now took his leave. 
He had a shrewd suspicion that the evening meal was 
barely sufficient for themselves, and so, with the excuse 
of being afraid of the evening air for his fever, he said 
good-bye till the morrow. 

His three months' leave passed like a dream; but 
before he left to rejoin his regiment the marriages of 
Count Lippo Selvi to Rosina Nicolini and of Giulio 
to Gioconda were settled. Rosina coaxed her father 
into making Gioconda a present of their debt for corn, 
and Giulio had worked to such purpose that the crops 
promised well and the olive-trees showed abundant 

The roses had returned to Gioconda's cheeks, and 
stornelli and rispetti echoed gaily again round the old 

Even Caro looked younger and gayer than before. 
The year and three months of Giulio's service with his 
regiment passed quickly enough to Gioconda, who 
worked hard to increase her dowry, and on a fine June 
morning the good old priest, Don RarTaello, married them 
in the little parish church. 

Gioconda is now a blooming matron, with a small 
Nando at her knee, who rules his old grandfather with 
a rod of iron and is rapidly learning old-world sayings 
from his grandmother and little songs from his pretty 

ii in^\i ; 'i,iy 


" L'antica storia cui non e conta 
Del gran Taranto ? " . . . 

Delizie Tarantine, Carducci. 

The modern town of Taranto occupies the site of the 
Acropolis of the famous and splendid Tarentum, already 
a place of some importance when the Spartan Parthenii 
arrived there 707 years b.c. Of the queen of the Ionian 
sea, once so rich that the value and magnificence of the 
spoils taken by Fabius Maximus astonished the Roman 
citizens, little now remains but the name and immense 
mounds of rubbish, which are at length being scien- 
tifically examined by Professor Viola, on behalf of the 
Italian Government. 

Taranto lies like a ship on the water, an island town. 
The streets are narrow and tortuous, and the houses 
high ; some of the palaces in the upper town are hand- 
some in a baroque, rococo style, and being all built of 
white stone, recall Malta. A feature peculiar to Taranto 
is the elaborate carving of the lunettes above the door- 
ways, all made of wood, and most fantastic in design ; a 
baboon's head is a favourite centrepiece. There are a 

220 Italian Sketches. 

few fine gargoyles, and here and there an old balcony 
suggests serenades, and flowers fluttering down, and 
poignards gleaming. 

The most important ruin of ancient Tarentum is a 
fine column of a Doric temple, and a fragment of its 
companion, encased in the wall of a little courtyard in 
the Oratory of the Congregation of the Trinity in the 
Strada Maggiore. Professor Viola tells me that the 
measurements exactly correspond with those of the 
columns of the temple of Diana at Syracuse. The height 
of the Column is twenty-seven feet eight inches, of which 
nine feet ten inches are buried underground. The 
abacus measures one foot ten inches in height, and ten 
feet seven inches in width. It probably belonged to the 
temple of Poseidon, the titular deity of Tarentum, and 
was evidently one of the most important buildings of the 
Acropolis. The size of this column may be imagined by 
two people having lived on the top of the capital in a 
small house, which was only demolished a few years ago, 
and replaced by a pergola overgrown with vines, and 
with seats underneath for enjoying the bel fresco. 

San Domenico, with a fine Norman doorway, stands 
high above the steep street of the same name, on the top 
of a treble flight of steps, flanked by two quaint old 
saints. Unfortunately the Tarentines have the Eastern 
passion for whitewash, and have whitened the doorway 
and the rose window above. The ceiling is all painted, 


and the pilasters of the church bear the cross of the 
Knights of Malta. The seats of the choir are of fine 
intarsia work, and in the centre is the following modest 
inscription : — 

" Qualunque sia dell' opra il lavorio, 
II difetto e dell' uom, il buon di Dio. 

" Raphael Monteanni, 
"Terrae Lequilarum, F. H. a.d. mcclxxxvii." * 

Just as we were coming out of San Domenico the 

impressive strains of a funeral march rose from the street 

below, and we waited on the top of the steps for the 

procession to pass. All the confraternities were there in 

their quaint mediaeval dresses, as it was the burial of a 

person of some consequence. First came the Addo- 

loratt, who wore long white cotton robes with a hood 

tight over the face, and holes cut for the eyes ; they 

looked most ghostly figures, quite unfit to be abroad 

in the bright sunlight. Then followed the Carmeliti, 

with cream-coloured mohair capes, and large, black, 

broad-brimmed hats, trimmed with blue silk ribbon. 

After them came the San Gaetani, in blue silk capes 

and white hoods covering the face; and then the 

bearded Capucine monks, and the Pasquilini monks 

who are clean shaven. The regular clergy and the 

canons of the cathedral, in capes of ermine and purple 

* ' ' Whatever is the fatigue of this work, 

The faults are due to the man, the good is of God." 

222 Italian Sketches. 

silk, preceded the coffin, borne on the shoulders of mem- 
bers of the different confraternities. 

I was lucky enough to be in Tarento during Holy 
Week, and thus saw the procession on Good Friday, 
which is very curious, and a source of great pride to the 
Tarentines. The crowd were most orderly and good- 
tempered, and anxious to explain everything to a 
foreigner. A pleasant young sailor lad told me that he 
had heard that at Rome, where the Pope was, they once 
had processions, but never one to be compared to this. 

The sight was most picturesque as the procession 
wound round down the hill from the Borgo Nuovo, as 
the new part of Tarento is called — a motley, many- 
coloured crowd, the brilliant yellow, red, and salmon- 
coloured handkerchiefs the women wear tied over their 
heads and under their chins, and the heavy gold chains 
and neck ornaments they delight in, glistening in the 
fitful sun; the life-size painted figures swaying high 
above the crowd, and ever and anon stopping as the 
bearers rested. 

The municipal band, playing a solemn funeral march, 
headed the procession, followed by a large black flag ; 
then came two of the confraternity of the Carmeliti. 
They were bare-foot, and bore long white staves in their 
hands, representing the apostles. Then, borne high on 
the shoulders of four brothers of the confraternity of the 
Addolorati, in white cotton flowing robes and bare legs 


and feet, was a platform with the instruments of the 
Passion. The next Mistero, as they call the painted 
images, was a life-size statue, either of wood or papier- 
mache, of Christ kneeling, His hands extended, and His 
face turned towards heaven; a small, winged angel, by 
some arrangement of wires, hovered over Him, bearing a 
gold cup in one hand. Two of the representatives of 
the apostles walked between this figure and the next, 
which was a most ghastly representation of Christ being 
scourged — an emaciated figure tied to a pillar, with the 
flesh all livid, lacerated, and bloody. The bearers of 
this figure, and of all the following ones, had crowns of 
thorns on their heads, as had also the four attendants, 
who, dressed in their holiday best, carried strong staves 
with an iron crescent at the top to rest the poles of the 
platform upon, which was a considerable weight, and 
hurt the bearers' shoulders, for they borrowed handker- 
chiefs from friends in the crowd to bind round the poles 
as they staggered along with difficulty. 

Christ in a long crimson robe, with His hands tied and 
crowned with thorns, was the next figure, attended as 
usual by two bare-footed apostles. After this came the 
crucifix, so heavy that ten bearers had evident difficulty 
in carrying it. All round the base of the cross were 
stuck petroleum lamps, to be lit at sundown, and which 
were strangely incongruous in such an old-world scene. 

An immense black cross, with yards upon yards of 

224 Italian Sketches. 

white drapery most artistically arranged upon the arms, 
was the next Mistero ; and now the crowd, which had 
been rather apathetic, showed signs of interest and some 
slight emotion. All the men bared their heads as a huge 
bier, borne by some twenty men, came slowly along. It 
was covered with a black velvet pall, and on this was 
laid the body of our Lord, covered with a fine muslin 
veil, all embroidered with large golden rosettes, rather 
the shape of sunflowers. Four apostles attended at the 
corners of the bier, and on either side walked two 
Tarentine nobles, in full evening dress and bare-headed. 
They are called the Cavalieri di Cristo, and were as 
much out of keeping as the petroleum lamps. A crowd 
of priests of different grades followed behind, and the 
procession wound up with a figure of the Virgin Mary 
in a black silk dress, holding a heart pierced with an 
arrow in her right hand, and an elaborately embroidered 
handkerchief trimmed with lace in the other. She was 
attended by the two last apostles. 

My pleasant young Tarentine sailor told me that the 
privilege of carrying the Misteri, and having bruised 
shoulders for many a long day afterwards, was put up 
to auction, the average price being fifty francs, which 
went towards the expenses. Another curious custom 
is that one church steals from another the honour of 
starting and arranging the procession. Each church 
has its own confraternity, out of whose number the 


twelve apostles are chosen. They must never leave 
their places near the Misteri in a procession, and are 
jealously watched by all the less fortunate confraternities. 
Some six years ago there was a most violent storm, and 
two of the unhappy bare-legged and bare-footed apostles 
took refuge for a moment in a cafe. The Carmeliti 
instantly rushed into their places, and have held the 
privilege for their church in the Borgo Nuovo ever 

It is obligatory for the procession to visit the little 
church attached to the convent Delle Pentite, where 
the figure of the Madonna Addolorata is placed on a 
table near her altar, and all the other Misteri defile 
before her, making the round of the church one by one. 
Unfortunately the rain had begun to fall fast, and the 
thunder growled ominously before the procession could 
reach the Pentite, and it crowded pell-mell into 
another church. We went on to the convent, and saw 
the ghostly figures of the nuns flitting hither and thither 
behind the lattice windows high above the church. I 
was evidently an object of some curiosity to them, as 
well as to the small boys, who speculated as to whether 
I was a princess, or a man from some " far countrie." 

Meanwhile the rain fell heavily outside, and the sky 
looked like lead ; so we determined to go to dinner, and 
asked our nice sailor lad to join us. He appeared as- 
tonished, and at first refused, but on my pressing him 


226 Italian Sketches. 

he accepted, and was a most pleasant companion, 
behaving with that charming, easy good breeding so 
characteristic of the lower classes in Italy, whose innate 
courtesy might serve as a model to most gentlefolk. 

From him I learnt that the unhappy bearers, the 
apostles, the Cavalierly and, in short, all who belonged 
to the procession, would have to stay in the small 
church where they had taken refuge until the next 
morning at ten, if the rain did not cease before eleven 
that evening, and admit of the performance at the 
Pentite, which took an hour, and must be concluded 
before midnight. It poured all the night, and I did 
not envy the crowd of people who were stewing in the 
little church. 

The Marina, re-christened Via Garibaldi, is picturesque 
but decidedly dirty j the side streets are so narrow that 
it was a perpetual source of speculation to me what a 
Tarentine does when he becomes fat. Some of these 
alleys are only two feet wide, and populous as rabbit- 
warrens. The inhabitants do not look healthy; their 
faces are pale and pasty, but the teeth are splendid, 
and the hair black as a raven's wing, while the Greek 
blood comes out in the almost universally beautiful ears 
and graceful head so well poised on the shoulders. 
Now and then one meets a girl who might have posed 
for Praxiteles, or a youth who looks as though he had 
stepped out of a Greek vase. Occasionally the Saracen 


blood shows strongly, as a swarthy fisherman strolls 
along, his brown net thrown over one shoulder. 

Earrings are generally worn by the men in and about 
Taranto. The trainieri, or carters, have very character- 
istic gold circlets, shaped like a half moon, which stand 
out from the face, and are decidedly becoming. 

Taranto was made into an island by Ferdinand I. of 
Arragon, who in 1480 cut through a narrow tongue 
of land to secure the town from the attacks of the Turks 
after the storming of Otranto and the massacre of the 
inhabitants. The noble castle built by Charles V. — 
now, alas ! being destroyed by the Italian Government, 
in order to build an Admiralty — flanks the canal at 
its entrance into the Ionian Sea. At the other end, 
the fine round tower which guarded the Mare Piccolo 
has disappeared under the crowbar and pickaxe. The 
canal is to be widened and deepened to admit the 
largest ironclads, and Taranto is destined to become 
what it once was — the great seaport of Southern Italy, 
and to see the Mare Piccolo again teem with shipping 
as of old. It is cut where Hannibal dragged the ships 
across the land, when the Roman garrison held the 
citadel and prevented the Tarentine vessels from leaving 
the inner port. 

Near the village of Statte, on the slope of the hill, is a 
masseria, or farmhouse, called Triglio, where there is an 
enormous cistern which collects the infiltrations from 

228 Italian Sketches. 

a very large extent of country, and supplies the town 
with an unlimited supply of excellent water. An aque- 
duct is tunnelled through the rock for about four miles, 
and its course is marked by spiracoli, or air-holes. It is 
a marvellous piece of work, as the labourers must have 
cut their way through the living rock, bent double, the 
measurements being only four feet high and two feet 
three inches wide. The last three miles of the aqueduct 
is supported on two hundred and three arches of irregular 
size, and of modern construction. 

A curious legend relating to the aqueduct is current 
among the peasants. They say that the wizard Virgil 
disputed with the witches for the dominion of Taranto, 
and tried to gain the affection of the inhabitants. A most 
dire drought afflicted the whole country, so Virgil thought 
water would be the greatest boon he could confer on 
the city. One night he set to work, and made the 
aqueduct ere morning. Before he had finished, the 
witches discovered what he was doing, and they began 
to construct the aqueduct of Saturo ; but dawn broke 
ere they had got half-way to the city, and they heard 
the applause and joyous acclamations of the Tarentines 
at the sight of the clear, bright water brought into their 
town by Virgil. The witches were beaten, and their 
aqueduct still remains half finished and in ruins. 

The first date we can establish in the history of 
Tarentum is the defeat of its inhabitants by the Mes- 


sapians, mentioned by Diodorus in B.C. 473. The city 
suffered considerably on its capture by Hannibal, but 
nothing in comparison to the degradation it underwent 
when taken by Fabius Maximus, in 207. He, however, 
opposed its proposed reduction to a condition similar 
to that of Capua, and Tarentum remained the seat of 
the Praetor and the chief town of Southern Italy. 
During the civil wars between Octavian and Antony 
and S. Pompeius, it is often mentioned as a naval station 
of importance; and, in B.C. 36, an agreement between 
Octavian and Antony was arranged, to which Tacitus 
alludes as the Tarentinum foedus. 

Brundusium rather destroyed the importance of Taren- 
tum, and we do not find any mention of the city until 
after the fall of the Western Empire, when it played an 
important part in the Gothic wars. Taken by Belisarius, 
and retaken by Totila in a.d. 549, Tarentum remained 
in the hands of the Goths until wrested from them by 
Narses. In 661, Romoaldus, Duke of Beneventum, took 
it from the Byzantine Empire, and it fell successively 
into the hands of the Saracens and of the Greek 
Emperors, until taken by Robert Guiscard in 1063. 
Ever since Taranto has formed part of the kingdom 
of Naples. 

The view seawards off " La Ringhiera," now called 
Corso Cavour, is most beautiful. At a little distance 
from the high sea-wall on which one stands is a powerful 

230 Italian Sketches. 

fresh-water spring, rising with such force in the sea that 
a small boat cannot get near it, and a ship loses her 
anchor if let go beside the "Ring of Saint Cataldo." 
Shoals of porpoises race and tumble, glinting in the 
bright sun, and the gulls flap lazily over the sea, which 
literally swarms with fish. Watching the porpoises 
gambol below, Taras, the son of Poseidon and of the 
lovely nymph Satura, the fabled founder of the city, 
rose in our imagination on his dolphin from the waves, 
and irresistibly we recalled the splendour of the proud 
Tarentum, whose schools were so famous that Plato 
came from Athens to visit them, and was received by 
Archytas, the mathematician, the astronomer, the phi- 
losopher, and the brilliant writer, who was seven times 
named Strategos, and who, by the ascendency of his 
eloquence, his virtues, and his talents, improved the 
laws of his country, and made them respected. A great 
general, he held the Lucanians in check, and the Taren- 
tine arms, during his supremacy, were victorious. Her 
navy swept the Ionian sea and the whole basin of the 
Adriatic, and the political and commercial influence of 
Tarentum was at its highest point. 

We thought of the great city which could send forth 
an army of thirty thousand foot and five thousand horse, 
and whose citizens dared to insult the Roman ambassador, 
Lucius Posthumius Megellus, who went to Tarentum to 
demand reparation for grievous injuries. The Roman 


spoke bad Greek, and roused the laughter of the flippant 
Tarentines, who at length hissed him out of the theatre, 
as though he had been a bad actor. A buffoon, known 
as the Pint-pot, from his constant drunkenness, with 
indecent gestures, bespattered his senatorial gown with 
filth. Lucius held it aloft, saying, " Men of Tarentum, 
it will take not a little blood to wash this gown." 

For ten years Tarentum, aided by Pyrrhus, main- 
tained the war against Rome, and at first, thanks to the 
superior talents of their ally, and still more to his ele- 
phants, so finely described by Lord Macaulay — 

" Beside him stalks to battle 
The huge earth-shaking beast, 
The beast on whom the castle 
With all its guards doth stand ; 
The beast who hath between his eyes 
The serpent for a hand — " 

the Greeks had the advantage; but near Beneventum 
Pyrrhus was completely defeated, and Tarentum lost 
her independence for ever. 

The names of Pythagoras, who found an asylum with 
Archytas; of Livius Andronicus, the Tarentine Greek, 
who gave the first rudiments of the regular drama to 
Rome; of Rinthon, the founder of a new kind of 
burlesque-farce; of the philosopher and musician 
Aristoxenes, pupil of Xenophilus and of Aristotle, of 
whose 453 volumes we only possess the " Elements of 

232 Italian Sketches. 

Harmony," the oldest treatise extant on music, come 
before our minds, and we search in vain for a modern 
counterpart to so much that is glorious in story. Modern 
Taranto can only boast of one famous child, the graceful 
and charming musician Paisiello. 

To the east of the town of Taranto, overlooking the 
Mare Piccolo, which is divided into two basins by the 
promontories of II Pizzone and Punta della Penna, 
are hills formed almost entirely of shells of the murex. 
The Tarantine red-purple dye was celebrated, and is 
supposed to have owed its peculiar hue to the use of two 
kinds of shell-fish, Murex trunculus, which was the one 
used at Tyre, and Murex brandaris, used at Laconia. 
Pliny says the murex were caught by pandering to their 
greediness. Small nets with a fine mesh were used, and 
into these were put small shell-fish, called mitole^ which 
had been kept out of the water until half dead. When 
lowered into the sea they gape wide open with thirst and 
delight, when the murex rushes up, and finding that he 
cannot push his long spiny snout through the meshes of 
the net, he thrusts his lance-like tongue into the open 
shells of the mitole, which instantly closes, catching the 
enemy in a vice. When the nets were drawn up the 
murex hung in clusters, and were sorted according 
to size. The small ones were pounded, the larger 
broken, and the fish extracted with an iron hook; the 
colour-bags were cut out and thrown into salt. Three 


days were sufficient for maceration, and the fresher the 
murex the finer was the dye. 

Sixteen miles in circumference, the Mare Piccolo 
resembles an inland lake ; its sapphire-blue water reflects 
the sun's rays, and it is so perfectly clear that one can 
distinguish the foundations of many an old building far 
beneath the boat. Fragments of fine Greek vases are 
often hauled up in the nets, and now and then an old 
coin is found along the beach. Fishing-boats, piled high 
with faggots of lentisk covered with the spawn of oysters 
and mussels, are perpetually shooting from under the 
bridge, coming in from the open sea to deposit their 
precious burden in the quiet depths of the inner port. 
The wealth of shell-fish is astounding. There are over 
a hundred and fifty different species, and ninety-three 
kinds of fish come at different times of the year to spawn 
in the inland sea. The fishing is worth over five million 
francs per annum. Tall poles stand out of the Mare 
Piccolo in every direction, whence are suspended, under 
the water, row upon row of rope made of grass, into 
the strands of which are stuck the spat of oysters and 
mussels. The ropes of mussels, called cozze nere at 
Taranto, are sold all over Italy. Razor-fish, cockles, 
date-mussels, sea-urchins, the various murex, and other 
shell-fish are eaten raw, and go by the generic name of 
frutti di mare, or sea fruit. The little market-place is 
picturesque, but dirty, and all kinds of fish and shells are 

234 Italian Sketches. 

on sale. The elegant little sea-horses are common, and 
the beautiful shells of the Pinna nobilis, for which they 
still fish with the peculiar net called fiernuetico, identical 
with the pernilegum described by Pliny. 

The silky beard of the lana-pesce, as the fishermen call 
the pinna, is woven into gloves and scarves as a curiosity ; 
in ancient times the transparent robes of the dancing 
girls were made of it, and it was valued as a costly and 
beautiful material, being either dyed purple or left the 
natural beautiful golden-brown hue. Fish culture and 
fishing have been cultivated in Taranto by the figli del 
mare (sons of the sea), as the guild of fishermen are 
called, from time immemorial, and the ancient laws were 
codified in the fifteenth century by the last prince of 
Taranto, John Antony de Balzo, in the Libro Rosso, or 
Red Book. 

On calm summer days the fairy-like argonaut sails 
about on the Mare Piccolo, and one is tempted to regret 
that a scene so peaceful and so fraught with classical 
memories should be destined to become a busy arsenal 
and seaport. 

At the further extremity from the town, two small 
brooks, the Cervaro and the Rascho, enter the Mare 
Piccolo ; and opposite the Monte de' Coccioli, the hill 
formed of murex shells, stands the church of the Ma- 
donna del Galesio, on the little stream of Le Citrezze, 
the ancient Galesus. Formerly it was well wooded, but 


now the flat banks of the tiny river are but scantily 
cultivated with cotton. Two hundred yards from where 
the Citrezze flows into the Mare Piccolo rise two powerful 
fresh-water springs, now called Citro and Citrello, with 
sufficient force to prevent any small boat from approach- 
ing close. On the left bank of the streamlet Virgil met 
the old Corycian swain, who 

"With unbought dainties used to pile his board," 

thanks to his skill in agriculture. 
Horace sings of 

" Galesus, thy sweet stream I'll choose, 
Where flocks of richest fleeces bathe : 
Phalanthus there his rural sceptre sway'd, 
Uncertain offspring of a Spartan maid. 

" No spot so joyous smiles to me 
Of this wide globe's extended shores ; 
Where nor the labours of the bee 
Yield to Hymettus' golden stores, 
Nor the green berry of Venafran soil 
Swells with a riper flood of fragrant oil." 

Martial and Pliny talk of the excellent leeks of Taren- 
tum ; Varro praises its honey as the best in Italy. The 
salubrity of the climate and the fertility of the soil were 
celebrated. Pears, figs, oil, wine, corn, and fine white 
salt were among the products ; and the breed of horses 
was famous, and supplied the Tarentine light cavalry 
(Tapav-nVos) so noted in the armies of Alexander the 
Great and his successors. 

236 Italian Sketches, 

The Tarentine wool has been praised by many classical 
writers. Varro speaks of its softness, while Strabo praises 
its lustre ; Pliny, Horace, and Martial all laud it, and 
Columella describes the great care taken of the sheep. 
They were never allowed to graze with their heads turned 
towards the sun, for fear of blindness, or let out while the 
dew was on the grass. Their wool was washed with wine, 
oiled and combed, and then covered with a cloth. The 
breed had degenerated in the time of Queen Joan II., 
who in 14 1 5 issued an edict to relieve the guild of wool 
manufacturers from various imposts and taxes, in order 
to improve the quality of the produce. 

The sheep now seen in Apulia are small, and give little 
wool ; they are almost universally black, with curiously 
brilliant yellow eyes, and agile as deer. 

Tarantismo is still implicitly believed in, not only by 
the common people, but by most of the Apulian gentry. 
I have never seen a case, as the tai'antola only becomes 
venomous when the weather is hot. The women glean- 
ing in the cornfields are most liable to be bitten, as they 
wear but scant clothing, on account of the intense heat. 
The following account, which differs considerably from 
any hitherto given, is from an eye-witness, a Tarentine 
gentleman, who has seen many cases. 

There are various species of the insect, and two 
different kinds of tarantismo^ the wet and the dry. A 
violent fever attacks the person bitten, who sits moaning 


and swaying backwards and forwards. Musicians are 
called, and begin playing ; if the air does not strike the 
fancy of the tarantata, as the patient is called, she moans 
louder, and says, "No, no, not that." The fiddler in- 
stantly changes, and the tambourine beats fast and furious 
to indicate the difference of the time. When at last the 
tarantata gets an air to her liking, she springs up and 
begins to dance frantically. If she has the dry taran- 
tismo, her friends try to find out the colour of the taran- 
tola that has bitten her, and adorn her dress and her 
fingers with ribbons that recall the tints of the insect — 
white or blue, green, red, or yellow. If no one can 
indicate the colour, she is decked with streamers of every 
hue, which flutter wildly about as she dances and tosses 
her arms in the air. The ceremony generally begins in 
the house, but what with the heat and the concourse of 
people, it often ends in the street. 

If it is a wet tarantismo, the musicians choose a spot 
near a well, and the dancer is incessantly deluged with 
water by relays of friends, who go backwards and for- 
wards to the well with their picturesque brown earthen- 
ware jars. My informant tells me that it is incredible 
what an amount of water is used on these occasions. 
He spoke feelingly, as drought is the great enemy of the 
Apulian landowners, who occasionally lose their crops 
and their cattle from want of rain. 

When the tarantata is quite worn out, she is undressed 

238 Italian Sketches. 

and put to bed. The fever lasts seventy-two hours, and 
the state of nervous excitement must be intense to sustain 
a woman under such fatigue as dancing for three whole 
days. If the musicians are not called in, and the person 
bitten is not induced to dance, the fever continues in- 
definitely, and is in some cases followed by death. 

There is a master-mason living near Taranto who 
mocked at the whole thing, threatening to beat any of 
his female belongings who, if bitten by a tarantola, 
dared to try the dancing cure. As ill-luck or Saint 
Cataldo would have it, he was himself bitten, and after 
suffering great pain, and being in a high fever for several 
days, he at last sent for the musicians to his own house, 
carefully locking the doors and closing the windows. 
But the frenzy was too strong, and, to the malicious 
delight of the women, he was soon seen bounding about 
in the middle of the street, shrieking, " Le feminine hanno 
ragion ! " (The women are right). 

A favourite ornament at these mad dances are vine 
branches decked with ribbons of various hues, which 
makes one suspect that there may still linger vestiges of 
the old Bacchanalian orgies in these Apulian dances. 

The small terra-cotta figures and heads, of which many 
thousands have been dug up lately at Taranto, have a 
distinct type of their own, and are occasionally very 
beautiful. The heads are remarkable for the rather 
theatrical exuberance of the head-dress ; heavy wreaths 


and large flowers like rosettes entwine the male heads as 
well as the female. The fine gold ornaments in the 
museum at Naples, which were found at Taranto, show 
the same love of exaggerated magnificence. Ancient 
writers mention many works of art ordered by the Taren- 
tines from the great Greek artists for the decoration of 
their city — the Heracles and the Poseidon, by Lysippus ; 
the Winged Victory, which was taken to Rome, where 
it became one of the chief ornaments of the Curia Julia ; 
Europa on the Bull, by Pythagoras of Rhegion, and 
many others. Let us hope that some of these treasures, 
and the great candelabra of bronze, with three hundred 
and sixty-five burners, sent by Dionysios the younger, to 
be placed in the senate-house, as a proof of his friendli- 
ness for Archytas, as well as the " irate gods " left by 
Fabius Maximus to the conquered Tarentines, may come 
to light in the excavations now going on. The coins of 
Tarentum are among the finest in the world ; the most 
beautiful are of the fifth and fourth century B.C. Taras 
astride on his dolphin, holding the trident in one hand, 
figures on many ; in others he stands in a chariot driving 
two horses, which probably refer to an Agonistic victory. 
Shell-fish figure largely on the reverse sides of these 
coins, showing that the fishery was a matter of great 
importance even in those days. Mionnet gives a list of 
one hundred and twenty-five different coins of the city, 
a proof of the importance and richness of "imbelle 



An immense rolling plain of calcareous tufa, with a scant 
covering of rich brown earth, studded all over with 
colossal olive trees of great age ; cut up by long lines 
of rough walls, built in great measure to get rid of the 
stones off the cornfields, and dotted here and there with 
small towns and solitary masserie or farmhouses, glinting 
in the bright sunshine and looking like small fortresses ; 
an occasional gravina or ravine with large boulders far 
below, where now and then a torrent rages for a short 
time in the winter, and a kestrel hovering among the 
rocks, — such are the first impressions of this part of 
Magna Graecia. 

A wild, curious, melancholy country, beautiful in its 
way, and a very paradise for the botanist. In March the 
short turf is starred all over with the lovely yellow and 
purple Romulia columnce, sometimes all purple, some- 
times nearly white, with a most delicious smell, like 
violets, only more so. The untilled parts of the country 
are a soft blue-gray colour from the rosemary, which 
grows into immense bushes, and is used for firewood. 


242 Italian Sketches. 

The carub, or locust trees,, shine like green oases in the 
midst of the sad, grey olives, their young vegetation 
being of a vivid yellow-green, and the leaves looking as 
though they had been oiled, so brilliant are they. The 
lentisk, the myrtle, the white and the pink gumcistus or 
rockrose, and salvia grow luxuriously. 

There are several species of wild mignonette, and 
many orchids and irises. The beautiful and curious 
snake's-head iris, looking as though made of black velvet 
shot with yellow-green, grows everywhere, and when in 
its favourite position, under a tall bush, sends its long, 
slender, reed-like leaves a yard and more up to the light. 

In the cultivated land under the olive trees, the 
ground is in some places all flecked sky-blue, with the 
exquisite iris Morceafugax, which, alas ! lasts but six hours, 
uncurling its delicate flowers at midday, and dying with 
the setting sun. There are, however, several flowers on 
each of them, so their beauty lasts longer than might be 
imagined. Purple anemones grow strong and tall, and 
the vetches are abundantly represented ; there is one in 
particular exactly the colour of a ruby, which in the sun 
is positively dazzling. The wild cucumber trails along 
the dusty banks with its pale yellow flowers, and the 
Cynoglossum columnce, all covered with down like a 
maiden's cheek, looks sickly with its glaucus leaves and 
queer little roseate flowers, like drops of old port wine. 

Squills grow luxuriantly, and the stately, graceful 


asphodel surround the base of the olive trees, the larger 
variety sending up a flower stem some four feet high. 
In the moonlight it looks a weird, unearthly flower, 
bending slowly to the sea breeze, and old Homer's lines 
rose to one's mind : — 

atya 5' 'Ckovto /cot' acr<po8e\bv Ket/xSiva 
ivQa re vaiovcri ^vx a ^ efScoAa Kafidvrwv. 

— " Again they came to the asphodel meadow, where the 
spirits dwell, the shades of the dead " — as ever and anon 
the strange, pungent smell rose heavily to the sky. 
Here and there a palm tree towers far up towards the 
sky, drooping its feathery leaves as though pining for its 
distant brethren in Africa. 

No wonder the people here believe in witches and in 
magic : the lonely expanses of country, the fantastic 
shapes of the carub and olive trees — in whose misshapen 
trunks the brigands used to hide, dressed in stuff re- 
sembling the colour of the trees, so that the soldiers 
often passed within a few paces of the men they were 
tracking ; the innumerable old tombs, crypts, and 
remains of ancient buildings scattered about on every 
side, are all well calculated to impress an ignorant 

The prickly pear assumes the proportions of a small 
tree, and is a source of considerable profit to the pro- 
prietors, as it flourishes where nothing else will grow, 
and six of the red or yellow luscious fruit sell for five 

244 Italian Sketches. 

centimes in the towns. On asking how they managed to 
pick the fruit from the huge, tangled mass of broad 
leaves, all covered with minute and penetrating prickles, 
they told me there was a plant called Fumulu, with 
which they wipe the leaves and fruit, and which destroy 
the innumerable prickles. This same plant is said to 
cause blindness, swelling of the head, and ultimately to 
kill white sheep. The fact is that one seldom sees any 
but black sheep, which they say are not affected by the 
Fumulu (Iperico crispd). 

Apulia is very sparsely inhabited. There are no 
cottages, and the field-work is all done by gangs of men 
and women from the various small towns. Wages are 
low : a man gets one franc a day, a woman half that 
sum, save at harvest-time, or when the olives are 
gathered; then a woman receives seventy to eighty 
centimes, a man from two to two and a half francs. 
The day's work is a poor one, as many of the labourers 
live from two to five miles from their work, so they come 
late and leave early, besides being tired by walking such 
a distance. This state of things may change as the sense 
of security increases. It is hardly credible that up to 
1816 the Turkish and Algerian corsairs used to carry off 
women and young boys and girls into slavery ! Until 
after the bombardment of Algiers by Lord Exmouth, no 
woman was safe near the sea-coast. After this came 
the brigandage, which only ceased in 1862, when twenty- 


one brigands were killed in a pitched battle, and eleven 
taken as prisoners to Taranto, where they were shot next 
morning in the market-place. 

The agricultural instruments are curiously primitive. 
The spade is unknown, and everything is done with a 
short-handled and much-bent hoe. Earth and stones are 
carried, exactly as in Egypt, in small rush-baskets on one 
shoulder, each basket containing about twelve handfuls. 
I attempted to explain a wheelbarrow to an Apulian 
peasant with signal unsuccess ; no doubt he would use it 
as the Arabs did, when M. de Lesseps tried to introduce 
them at Ismailia on the Suez Canal — turn them topsy- 
turvy to sleep under. 

The plough weighs from eight to ten pounds, and 
consists of two very slender bent boughs of olive, or ilex, 
as shafts, and a tiny wooden coulter, roughly shaped 
with a hatchet, which just scratches the soil when the 
man leans on a stick that he fits into a hole on the upper 
part. Sometimes one sees fourteen pairs of oxen and 
five or six pairs of mules ploughing in a line under the 
olives ; the fields are very large, and they make no 
furrows for the water to drain off. When the day's work 
is over, the plough is tied on to the horns of one ox, who 
trails the shafts on each side as he sedately paces home- 

The common people, particularly to the north of 
Taranto, are wonderfully Eastern in look and manner; 

246 Italian Sketches. 

the tall, lithe figure, the bright face, brilliant teeth, and 
peculiar bluish tinge of the white of the eye, all tell of 
the Saracen blood. When one meets a shepherd 
trudging through the bushes after his small, wild, black 
sheep, he grins from ear to ear, saying salute (salve), 
and then pours out a torrent of incomprehensible dialect, 
raising his voice to a shout as he perceives that you 
cannot understand a word. His good-bye is state vi ben 
(keep well), and he will generally call you tu (thou), not 
from any want of respect, but from old custom. He 
dresses in a waistcoat and trousers all of one piece, made 
of goat's skin, with the hair turned inside, and a brown 
cloth jacket woven from the fleeces of his black sheep. 
The shepherds guide their flocks partly by voice and 
partly by throwing stones ; they are unerring shots, and 
a marauding lamb who has ventured into the corn, jumps 
high off the ground on receiving a stone on its nose. 
The shepherds play, on a kind of flute fashioned out of 
a cane, wild, melancholy music, which recalls Pan's 
pipes, as the sound is wafted across a ravine, mingled 
with the deep booming of the cows' bells and the sharp 
tinkle of the smaller ones around the neck of the bell- 

The masserie, or farmhouses, look very imposing, 
generally placed on elevated ground, to avoid the 
malaria as far as possible, and built of white stone, 
which glitters in the sunshine. They consist almost 


invariably of a very large open courtyard, surrounded 
with high walls. On one side of the yard is an immense 
vaulted cow-house, built of stone, with a manger running 
all around, divided off for each animal, in the centre of 
each division is sunk a common majolica plate, and, after 
the beasts have finished their meal of chaff and oats, the 
massaro delle bestte, or cowkeeper, goes around and 
sweeps the dust and refuse into the plate, whence it is 
easily cleared and thrown away. Out of this stable open 
immense vaulted chambers, with apertures in the roof 
where the chaff is thrown in. At one end is a large 
archway leading into a room with a chimney-shaft in 
the middle of the roof. Over a great slab of stone, on 
which olive branches smoulder, hangs a cauldron full of 
water ; all around the room runs a raised bench of stone, 
and on this are spread the miserable mattresses which 
serve the shepherds as beds. Their food consists chiefly 
of a thick puree made of beans, seasoned with a little 
salt, when they can afford it. 

The sheep's milk is excellent, very rich in cream, and 
fragrant in taste from the quantity of thyme and other 
sweet herbs eaten by the sheep. The ovile or sheep-pen 
stands at a little distance from the masseria ; it consists 
generally of three large yards, one for the ewes in milk, 
one for the lambs, and one for the ewes which are not 
giving milk. At one end of the yard for the milk-ewes 
is a tiny hut, divided in the middle ; here sit two men 

248 Italian Sketches. 

near apertures just large enough to admit one sheep at 
a time. A boy stands in the yard and pushes one ewe 
after another through the holes into the hut, where the 
men lay hold of the poor beasts by their tails, as they try 
to rush past. They then milk them into big pails in an 
incredibly short space of time. Each ewe gives a little 
under a quart of milk a day, and as soon as they are 
allowed to run out of the door of the hut, the lambs are 
waiting for their mothers, and finish any drop of milk 
the men leave. The massaro delle fiecore, or shepherd, 
makes a sort of dry curd, called ricotta, which is delicious, 
particularly when mixed with the honey which fully 
justifies the praises of the poets. The ricotta marzotica, 
made in March and salted, keeps far into summer, and 
resembles the little Normandy cheeses. In May, when 
the herbage is most luxuriant, they make cream an inch 
thick, from cows' or buffaloes' milk, like the Turkish 
caimak. Lu quagliatu, very like the Eastern yaghourt, 
is a common dish here, as it is in Sardinia — a remini- 
scence of the Saracen invasion. Cacio cavallo (horse 
cheese) is also excellent ; it is shaped like a small club, 
and gets its queer name from being suspended, a cavallo 
(astride), tied in pairs, across a bar of wood. 

The great produce is oil ; but partly from the scarcity 
of labour, partly from the want of energy and enterprise 
in the people, it is so badly made as to be almost un- 
salable in the rest of Italy. The olives are allowed to 


hang on the trees until they fall from sheer rottenness. 
The idea is that in this way more oil is obtained ; but if 
a storm comes, thousands of olives are swept away by 
the rain, and in any case the oil is of a bad colour, and 
the taste rancid and earthy. There is a considerable 
export of wool and corn; but the sheep are a small, 
stunted breed, only giving an average of two and a 
quarter pounds of wool per head. The cattle are hardy, 
dark grey in colour, and with hoofs like iron : the cross- 
roads in Apulia are generally tracks worn in the rock, 
and the oxen are unshod. Cotton is extensively grown : 
the staple is short, but the quality excellent, and in every 
house is a loom where the women weave all the sheets, 
quilts, and necessary household stuff, and the material 
for their own clothes. 

The horses are chiefly Dalmatian and Sardinian — 
handsome, courageous little beasts, full of fire, and doing 
their forty or fifty miles at a swinging trot. The mules 
are splendid, and the donkeys excellent. In general the 
animals are well treated, and look sleek and fat. 

Close to the masseria of Leucaspide, belonging to a 
well-known and popular member of London society, Sir 
James Lacaita, one can trace the old chariot-road from 
Taranto to Gnatia, on the Adriatic, where Horace slept 
on his journey to Brindisi. 

The Leucaspide, or heavy infantry with the white 
shields, who served under Pyrrhus at the battle of 

250 Italian Sketches. 

Asculum, are supposed to have encamped here, and all 
about the property are remains of old tombs and cave 
habitations. One seldom goes out without finding 
fragments of pottery, some of fine texture, light, and 
of a brilliant black or a soft grey colour ; many pieces, 
bearing traces of paint or of incised ornamentation, are 
evidently Greek, others are coarse, heavy, and hand- 
made, before the invention of the potter's wheel. 

The masseria of Leucaspide stands about two hundred 
feet above the sea, and is of the usual dazzling white 
stone. It was a mere ruin, but Sir James Lacaita has 
added considerably to the farmhouse, and has built a 
long loggia or arcade all along the south-west front, 
which overhangs a garden full of orange and lemon 
trees, with great yellow masses of brobdingnagian house- 
leek and patches of blue Parma violets. To the south 
lies the town of Taranto, about six miles off, shining like 
driven snow in the sun, and the two islands, once 
Chcerade, now San Pietro and San Paolo, seem to float 
on the milky coloured water. The Ionian Sea is some 
six miles from the masseria, and on the other side of 
the beautiful bay rise the snow-capped mountains of the 
Basilcate, and farther off, gradually fading into mist on 
the far horizon, are the Calabrian mountains, rugged and 
wild as their inhabitants. The sky is of a pale, clear 
blue, and the sunsets are like a picture by Turner. 

Directly opposite, on the Basilcate shore, lies the 


village of Metaponto, mentioned in the Odyssey as 
Alybas, founded by the hero of that name, who gave 
hospitality to Hercules when he took back the oxen of 
Geryon to Greece. While Hercules was in the house 
the wife of Alybas had a son, and they named him 
Metabos, "born after the arrival of the oxen." Meta- 
ponto only appears in real history about the seventh 
century B.C., when, after the destruction of the old town 
of Metabos by the barbarians who came down from the 
hills, the Sybarites sent a colony under Leucippos, 
chiefly formed of fugitive Messinians, who founded the 
new Metaponto. Pythagoras went there when driven 
out of Crotona towards the end of the sixth century B.C., 
and was received with every mark of admiration and 
respect. He died there, owing to the persecution of 
Cylon, whose partisans set fire to the edifice where the 
philosopher was teaching. 

Of ancient Metaponto nothing now remains but fifteen 
large columns, the relics of a temple. Everything that 
could be used for building purposes has long since been 
taken away, and a ruin, discovered and partially ex- 
cavated by the Due de Luynes in 1828, has shared the 
same fate. The"; emblem of Metaponto was an ear of 
corn, symbol of the goddess of plenty; most of the 
ancient coins of the city bear it, sometimes in conjunc- 
tion with a locust. 

On a clear day, a little to the left, you can distinguish, 

252 Italian Sketches. 

on rising ground, the farmhouse of Policoro, belonging 
to Prince Gerace, which stands on the site of Heracleia, 
founded B.C. 432 by the Tarentines. The city was in 
alliance with the Lucanians and the Tarentines against 
Rome in 278 B.C., and it was doubtless to detach them 
from their old friends that the Romans granted the 
Heracleians a treaty of alliance on such favourable 
terms that Cicero called it 

"Prope singulare foedus." 

The town seems to have suffered severely in the Social 
War, as we learn that all its records were destroyed by 
fire. The Tabulae Heracleenses, one of the most in- 
teresting monuments of antiquity, were found close by. 
These bronze tables are now in the Museum at Naples ; 
they bear a Latin inscription relating to the municipal 
regulations of Heracleia, but which is only a copy of a 
more general law, the Lex Julia Municipalise promulgated 
in 45 B.C. for all the towns of Italy. On the back is a 
Greek inscription of far earlier date. Coins and bronzes 
have been found in considerable numbers, and the most 
beautiful Greek vases in the Naples collection were found 
at Heracleia The coins bear a noble head, in profile, of 
Minerva, with the scylla on her helmet, and Hercules 
wrestling with the lion on the reverse, his club beside 
him, and a little bird between his legs. 

To the right, as we look across the bay, and behind 
Policoro, rises a mountain, called La Spina di Latronico, 

Leucaspide. 253 

in shape like Vesuvius ; and a little to the left one sees 
the great mass of the Pollino group, the highest point of 
which exceeds six thousand feet, and is clothed in snow- 
till far into the summer. Further again to the south the 
mountains sink, and we know that Sybaris, the great city- 
founded b.c. 720, famous for its opulence and power, 
lies hidden in the earth, with the waters of the Crathis 
flowing above it, through what is now a desolate swamp, 
frequented by vast herds of buffaloes and pestilent with 
fever. Yet more to the left, but lost in the mists, rise 
the Calabrian Mountains, which fall towards the sea, 
forming the three Iapygian promontories, on one of 
which, now Capo delle Colonne, stands all that is left 
of the celebrated temple of the Lacinian Juno, the one 
column which, standing out solitary against the blue sky, 
serves as a landmark to the mariner. 

Crotona, celebrated in ancient history for the extreme 
beauty of its inhabitants and for its school of medicine, 
is now represented by the small town of Cotrone, whose 
women pass for the handsomest of all the country around. 
The famous picture of Helen, for which Zeuxis was 
allowed to choose five of the most beautiful virgins of 
the city as his models, has long since disappeared ; but 
it is to be hoped that the excavations which Professor 
Viola, an enthusiastic and learned archaeologist, is to 
undertake for the Italian Government, will throw some 
light on the almost unknown history of the famous cities 

254 Italian Sketches. 

of Magna Graecia. Numerous coins have been found, 
the most ancient of a type peculiar to Magna Graecia, 
called incuse, one side convex, the other side concave. 
The earlier ones bear a tripod, the later have an angry- 
looking full face of the Lacinian Juno, and on the reverse 
a seated Hercules with a vase in his right hand. 

Behind the masseria of Leucaspide runs the wild 
picturesque Gravina di Leucaspide, the rocks in some 
places all overgrown with rosemary, myrtle, gumcistus, 
and lentisk, which in March is just coming into bloom, 
the buds looking like small portions of the crimson 
" Love-lies-bleeding " stuck on all over the boughs. The 
wild pear-trees in full bloom shine like snow in the sun, 
and wild olives spring up on every side, mixed with the 
feathery Pinus maritima and the ilex. In the gravine is 
a natural cavern, of difficult access, as the rocks are 
slippery, and one has to scramble down the rugged 
declivities for sixty feet before reaching the narrow 
ledge in front of the cave, with some hundreds of feet 
of precipice below. We found traces of ancient paint- 
ings, which have been almost defaced by holes made in 
the centre of them; these must be of old date, the 
broken rock being of the same colour as the rest. The 
cavern runs over four hundred and fifty feet into the 
earth, and branches off into two arms, both ending in a 
lofty chamber, with long stalagmites which glistened 
yellowish-white as our lamps flashed upon them. One 

Leucaspide. 255 

could trace signs of couches cut in the rock, but at 
present the only inhabitants are bats and owls. We 
could find no crosses cut in the roof, or on the sides of 
this cave, as on all the others I have seen about here. 

This gravina runs down towards the sea-shore, and 
gradually opens out and loses itself in the flat land. 
Towards Taranto lies a smaller ravine, the Gravina 
Mater Gratia, one of the wildest dells one can see, like 
an ideal drop-scene for the Freischutz. Near the end 
is a church of good size, with some dozen large columns 
standing in front, as though the intention had been to 
make it still larger. This church has been built on the 
site of an old sanctuary where, they say, once lived a 
holy hermit. Unluckily, to build the comparatively 
modern church and a house attached, they have cut 
away and destroyed great part of the old chapel, which 
was hewn out of the rock, and still bears traces of 
painting all over the roof and walls. Where the altar 
once stood is a daub of recent date, painted on the rock, 
perhaps covering an ancient fresco; a Christ on the 
cross and the Maries round, with a saint and a kneeling 
ox. Once a year people go on a pilgrimage to the 
sanctuary of Mater Gratia, and occasionally a mass is 
said in the church, whose doors stand wide open, the 
altar already for service, and no human creature near. 
The house is empty, and is falling to ruin, and the little 
garden which had once been walled round and evidently 

256 Italian Sketches. 

well cared for, was a wilderness. It was like a fairy tale, 
and I expected one of the big green lizards who lay- 
basking in the sun on the rocks suddenly to cast off its 
skin and appear as a hoary hermit. 

Opposite the church is a large cavern divided into 
three rooms, which bears traces of having been in- 
habited ; there are the remains of a cistern for rain water 
and of an oven, and several benches cut in the rock 
around the sides of the cave. A little further on is a 
similar old rock-house, but smaller. 

The tradition runs, that long ages ago a particularly 
fine ox disappeared from the herd ; people searched for 
him for a long time, and at last the entrance to the 
gravina was found, all overgrown with ivy, clematis, 
and other creeping plants. On exploring the ravine the 
rock-cut chapel was discovered, and the missing ox on 
its knees in adoration of a picture of the Madonna. 
Hence the name of the gravina, " Mater Gratia." 

About two miles from Leucaspide, on the farm of San 
Giovanni, also belonging to Sir James Lacaita, is a high, 
flat expanse of nearly bare rock, where once was a forest, 
and towards the centre, on a small round mound, stands 
the Tavola del Paladino, or Paladin's table — a huge, 
irregular slab of stone, supported on four smaller ones, 
and evidently the tomb of some ancient hero buried near 
an old chariot-road, whose ruts can be followed for miles 
in the rock. 

Leucaspide. 257 

Professor Viola had long wished to excavate here, and 
Sir James Lacaita had kindly put off the work until I 
could be present. On a splendid morning we started in 
high spirits, with four men to dig, or rather hoe, out the 
treasures we had made up our minds to find. It was a 
beautiful scene : the expanse of rocky land, with rose- 
mary bushes wherever there was an inch of soil, and the 
purple wind-flowers glowing in the sun ; the lovely 
Ionian Sea rippling with a slight breeze, and the larks 
soaring above, singing aloud ; a company of cranes, too, 
we heard far out of sight, and the inevitable kestrel 
hovered close by. 

Broken bits of stone lay round about the Tavola del 
Paladino, as though the slab had once been much 
longer. We soon perceived that the tomb had long 
ago been rifled, but we dug out some human remains, 
among them one perfect upper jawbone, and several 
pieces of two lower jawbones with some splendid teeth, 
and a considerable quantity of rough prehistoric pottery, 
called "Bucchero Italico." Everything was found in 
the uncovered portion of the tomb facing eastwards. It 
forms a right angle seventeen feet nine inches long and 
six feet six inches broad, only half of which is at present 
covered by the Tavola, which is raised three feet three 
inches off the ground, and rests on four upright slabs, the 
one towards the east only supporting half the covering- 
stone and leaving a perfect doorway, by which one can 


258 Italian Sketches. 

enter underneath to what was perhaps the Sacellum, 
while the slab nine feet nine inches long and seven feet 
broad may have really served as the table for funeral 
feasts in honour of the hero or heroes who have been 
buried below. We dug out about two feet of earth, and 
found that the bottom of the tomb was formed of the 
solid rock, while long slabs of stone had been neatly 
arranged around the sides, so as to form a huge coffin. 

Professor Viola said that this was the first megalithic 
tomb that had been excavated in the province of Lecce ; 
he hopes it may lead to the exploration of others, in 
order to try and throw some light on the life of the 
ancient inhabitants, who, about here, were, without 
doubt, of Iapygian race. All the excavations made 
hitherto in and near Taranto by Signor Viola which can 
be referred to this ancient epoch have shown different 
characteristics : the " Bucchero Italico " was always mixed 
with oriental vases, or the native imitations, none of 
which we found in the Paladin's tombs. We know 
that the Greeks came to Taranto in 707 B.C., and the 
Phoenicians had traded in the Ionian Sea long before, 
bringing the Oriental pottery with them, which was 
gradually copied by the native inhabitants ; so I leave 
any learned reader to establish a date for the Tavola del 

Our workmen had their own theory, which did not 
quite agree with the remarks of the learned professor. 


They first said it was Christian, and when we told them 
that the bones belonged to some hero who died long 
before our Lord was born, " Yes ! that is nothing ; in 
those days the Christians did not die, they were buried 
alive by the pagans, who in their turn were killed by the 
Paladins, who sat around this very stone and feasted 
after their battles." 

At a small distance from the Tavola del Paladino 
runs the Gravina di San Giovanni, wilder than any other, 
and where we just missed seeing a wolf who had 
frightened a shepherd-boy some two hours before. They 
are not so common here as in Calabria, where lives are 
lost every winter in encounters with the savage brutes. 
When the peasants chance to kill one, the head and 
skin are carried around in triumph to the different 
masserie, and the men get presents of money, eggs, or 

About half-way down the Gravina di San Giovanni 
another small ravine enters it at right angles, running up 
towards Accetta, a masseria belonging to the Cordiglia 
family, who are most courteous and kind to strangers. 
This small Gravina ends abruptly in a sharp point, and 
is planted with orange trees of divers species. It is a 
wonderful sight, like the garden of the Hesperides. The 
trees, being entirely protected from wind, grow luxuriously, 
and the leaves are of a glossy dark green. The high 
rocky walls of the ravine are hollowed out by the action 

260 Italian Sketches. 

of water into caves of most fantastic shapes ; some are 
quite hidden under curtains of ivy and clematis, and the 
rich black soil is carpeted with wild flowers. The 
golden-red oranges above one's head, and within reach of 
one's hand, seemed to set the very air on fire. There 
were about sixty thousand hanging on the trees in a little 
over an acre of ground. Don Nicola Cordiglia gave me 
one small bough with eight oranges in one cluster. 

The Spanish titles of " Don " and " Donna " are uni- 
versal here, and every one is called by their Christian 
name — " Don Alessandro," " Donna Veneranda," and 
so forth. The dependants kiss their master's hand and 
say " Eccellenza," but have a pleasant, frank way with 
them, and a sense of their own dignity, which is delight- 
ful. They are an honest race too, for doors are left 
open, and the large orange gardens are unguarded. The 
cattle remain out in the fields for six months of the year, 
the people all sleeping in the houses for fear of fever. 
Ladders for pruning the tall olive trees are left out night 
after night, miles away from the masserie, and as they 
are worth some ten to fifteen francs, and the people are 
miserably poor, I think it says wonders for the popula- 
tion. Just under the windows of Leucaspide, in the 
cornfields, there is a gang of women at work weeding, 
all in a line, with an overseer walking backwards in 
front of them. They come from Gioia, a large town 
some twenty-four miles distant, and they stay two months 


for field-work. Two are old women, the other nine 
young girls, of whom two are strikingly handsome. One 
is a perfect Arab, the other a pure Greek type, with 
delicate profile and the peculiar hands of the Venus of 
Medici, small and bent, with very curved fingers. 

One evening Sir James Lacaita (who is as popular 
among the Apulian peasants as he is in London drawing- 
rooms) invited the women and some bricklayers who are 
working here to come upstairs and dance the " Pizzica " 
and sing. I sat next to the Greek beauty, and never met 
a more modest, nice-mannered girl ; she talked more 
intelligible Italian than the others, and told me she was 
trying to earn money for her wedding. She danced 
beautifully, beginning with almost invisible steps, gliding 
over the floor, her apron coquettishly held in the fore- 
finger and thumb of each hand : then suddenly she 
would raise one arm above her head, holding the other 
bent backwards on the hip, and, snapping her fingers, 
would hop around her dancer, seeming to flaunt at him, 
and to dare him to follow her. The man she danced 
with had a superb figure, and seemed to fly, with the 
backs of his open hands resting on his hips, his head 
well erect, and his eyes sparkling with excitement. As 
one dancer tired, another rose and rushed into the dance. 
After some tumblers of wine had been passed round, a 
song was suggested, and one of the men began a senti- 
mental love-song with the guitar. Then I begged for a 

s 3 

262 Italian Sketches. 

real peasants' song, and took down the words of the 
sonetto, as they call it : — 

" Quanno s'affacce tu, donna reale, 
Ognuno dicera : Mo spande 'lu sole ; 
Non e lu sole e manco so' li stelle 
E lu splendore che cacce sta donna belle." 

(When thou lookest forth, royal lady, 

Every one will say ; Now the sun is shining. 

It is not the sun, nor yet the stars, 

But the splendour sent forth by this beautiful woman.) 

The tune is wild and melancholy, and recalls Arab music 
in its long notes, ending almost with a sob. 

The instruments were a guitar and a guitar battente, 
which has but five silver strings, and makes a sort of 
shrill, incessant accompaniment ; a tambourine, which 
one man played splendidly, and a deep earthenware pot, 
covered with tightly stretched sheep-skin, in the centre of 
which is a hole ; through this is forced a round, smooth 
piece of wood. The player begins by spitting two or 
three times into his hand, and then moves it up and down 
the stick as fast as he can. This produces a queer dron- 
ing sound, rather like a bagpipe in the far distance. 

Even the oldest woman occasionally got up and danced, 
and seemed to enjoy it as much as the girls. They told 
me they slept on trestle beds with straw mattresses, in a 
big room off the courtyard. Their food consists of la 
farinella, coarse flour made of maize, which they bring 
with them in sacks and eat with wooden spoons, chewing 


it into a kind of paste, and swallowing it without any other 

About eight miles south of Taranto lies the old baronial 
castle of the Princes of Leporano, head of the Muscettola 
family, one of whom was general under Charles V. at the 
siege of Florence. Apulia literally swarms with these 
baronial castles ; nearly every little village is crowned by 
a huge keep, generally of about the time of Charles of 
Anjou, with massive towers and large vaulted rooms. 
From the fine terrace of Leporano, now falling into decay, 
one can see the Torre di Satura, which probably marks 
the site of Saturum, as there are traces of mosaic pave- 
ments and of a subterranean passage. The Muscettola 
family, now represented by a female branch line, was one 
of the oldest in Italy ; they came originally from Ravello, 
near Amalfi, where the fine bronze gates of the ancient 
cathedral were erected in 11 79, by Sergio Muscettola and 
his wife Sigelgaita, to the honour of the mother of God. 

About a mile beyond Leporano is the magnificent castle 
of Pulsano, also belonging to the Muscettolas, and fast 
falling to ruin. The village now clusters close up to the 
keep, as the high wall, with a tower at each corner, has 
been destroyed. Pulsano is a noble example of the 
thirteenth century, an irregular oblong, with one large 
square tower and two smaller round ones on the left side, 
and one immense round tower and one square on the 

264 Italian Sketches. 

The cellars are spacious, and the living rooms, now 
used as granaries, bear traces of former splendour, in fine 
fireplaces and gilt doors. There is a wide stone staircase 
from the courtyard to the first floor, and a very narrow 
breakneck one, out of a room leading on to the roof, 
whence one can climb to the top of the five towers, each 
of which forms a room. The view is very beautiful : on 
one side the bay of Taranto, laughing in the bright sun, 
and all round a brilliant green carpet of young corn, dotted 
here and there with gray-green olive trees. 

One peculiarity of Pulsano is a long, narrow, precipi- 
tous staircase, which runs like a ladder up from the court- 
yard to the roof. In the cellar is still kept a huge stone 
ball, with a hole punched half through it. This ball was 
put on a spike at the top of the staircase, and sent rolling 
down on to the assailants. The population of the two 
villages of Leporano and Pulsano are of quite a different 
type from the Tarentines. They are very handsome, and 
generally fair ; we saw some children with perfectly flaxen 
hair and ruddy complexion. 

Further south, towards Lecce, the peasants still speak 
a kind of bastard Greek. I give a specimen of their 
songs, as the language is fast dying out, and will soon 
become a thing of the past. 

'* Aspro ne to charti, aspro to chioni, 
Aspro ne to calazi ce o prozimi, 
Aspro to sfondilossu ce o brachioni 
Mmesa sto pettossu mila afs' asiml. 


Jamena se pingepsan dio mastori 

Isane Patriarchi Serafini." 
Ce se pingepsan ce se caman oria 
Ce Angelu en ei mancu stin gloria." 

(" White is paper and white is the snow, 
White is the milk and also the leaven, 
White is thy neck and also thy fine arms, 
In the midst of thy breast are two silver apples. 
For me thou hast been painted by two masters, 
They were Patriarchs and Seraphim, 
And they painted thee and made thee so lovely 
That there is no Angel (like thee) even in heaven.") 

" Ana petanu androchimu 
Pesune s'tin auleddasu 
Na me patii ta podiasu 
Na me cheri psicheddamu. " 

(" When I die, my dear brown one, 
Bury me in thy small courtyard, 
So that I may be trodden by thy feet, 
And my little soul may rejoice.") 

" De apsi camila, 
De apsi calasa, 
De apsi gineca 
Mai calo istasa." 

(" Neither from fog, 
Nor from hail, 
Nor from woman 
Will ever come good.") 

On the other side of Leucaspide, to the north is the 
curious and weirdly beautiful little town of Massafra, 
situated on a small hill cut in two by a deep rugged 
ravine, spanned by a fine bridge, the arches some three 

266 Italian Sketches. 

hundred feet high. If I had been suddenly dropped blind- 
folded into Massafra, and then told to take the bandage 
off my eyes and say where I was, I should have answered, 
" Egypt." The people are pure Arabs in look and gesture, 
the shrill intonation of the voice is Arab, so are the 
splendid eyes and brilliant teeth. Their passion for 
bright colours in their dresses, and for daubing red, 
yellow, blue, and green paint on the outside of their 
miserable huts, is quite Eastern. They talk an impossible 
patois, which even the people round find it difficult to 
understand. The tradition runs that the Saracens, grad- 
ually driven back from Taranto, settled there, withstanding 
all attempts to dislodge them ; thence the name Massa 
Africa (the rock of the Africans), now Massafra. But no 
one really knows much about the place. 

The hill on which the little city stands is all overgrown 
with prickly pears, and one or two feathery palm-trees 
wave slowly to the wind, perhaps planted by the swarthy 
Saracens, as the palm is said to live longer than any other 

The view of the bridge is most extraordinary, and very 
picturesque. The two steep sides of the ravine are alive 
with people, who still inhabit the old cave dwellings of 
the aboriginal races of this country. Overhanging the 
precipice, and partly cut out of the living rock, is a noble 
mediaeval castle, its large round towers going sheer down 
to the bottom of the gravina, where in winter there is 


sometimes a raging torrent, which occasionally floods the 
lower caves, and drives the poor inhabitants out for a 

I went down a steep path opposite the castle for a little 
way, and looked into the rock habitations. Some had no 
doors of any sort, and contained a bedstead, a wooden 
box, and a chair ; occasionally the people had built a sort 
of entrance porch, and in one a woman was sitting 
spinning cotton, which is extensively grown round the 
town. Two hens were perched on the back of the chair, 
and a goat lay chewing the cud at her feet. 

The modern and extremely dirty town is built on the 
summits of the two hills, and extends down a broad road 
towards the railway station. About a mile and a half 
behind the town, in the bottom of the gravina, is the 
church of the Madonna della Scala, so called from the 
immense staircase which has been built to get down 
from the road to the bottom of the ravine. The modern 
church has been erected on the site of one of ancient 
date, hewn out of the rock, and of which a part is still 
existing; a small chapel with a rather majestic Virgin and 
child painted on the wall, over an altar cut out of stone, 
and an arched passage, of which one side only is left, 
with saints, rather above life size, painted in fresco and of 
wonderfully vivid colours. These, although Byzantine in 
character, do not appear older than the thirteenth century. 
In the modern church is a Madonna with the infant 

268 Italian Sketches. 

Jesus, of which the usual fable is related : a light was 
seen hovering in the gravina, a peasant dug and dis- 
covered the holy picture. It is so blackened by smoke 
that I could only just make out its Byzantine outline on a 
gold background. The whole of the ravine of Massafra 
is honeycombed with the ancient cave habitations of the 
prehistoric inhabitants ; to whom succeeded the early 
Christians, who hid there, doubtless from persecution, and 
who cut the cross in nearly every cave I saw. After 
them the Saracens, who gradually adopted Christianity, 
and amalgamated more or less with the Greeks, took pos- 
session of the rock-hewn dwellings, and at Massafra their 
descendants still inhabit them. 

Now that the railway has made communication easy, 
doubtless the history of this interesting and fascinating 
country will be more studied. The great want at present 
is decent inns. Travellers in Apulia, and still more in 
Calabria, must be prepared to rough it considerably, but 
the place and the people are delightful. Taranto is to 
become the great naval station of Southern Italy, and 
every one is looking forward with great interest to what 
may come to light when the docks are dug out on the site 
of " molle Tarentum." 






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The Seaboard Parish : a Sequel to "Annals of a Quiet Neigh 

bourhood." Fourth Edition. With Frontispiece. Crown 8vo, 6s 
"Wilfred Cumbermede. An Autobiographical Story. Fourth 

Edition. With Frontispiece. Crown 8vo, 6s. 
Thomas Wingfold, Curate. Fourth Edition. With Frontis 

piece. Crown 8vo, 6s. 

Paul Faber, Surgeon. Fourth Edition. With Frontispiece 
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MA LET, Lucas. — Colonel Knderby's Wife. A Novel. New and 
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MULHOLLAND, Rosa.— Marcella Grace. An Irish Novel. Crown 

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Third Edition. Crown 8vo, 6s. 

SHA W, Flora L.— Castle Blair ; a Story of Youthful Days. New and 
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TAYLOR, Col. Meadozvs, C.S.L, MR.LA.—Seeta.'. a Novel. With 
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Crown 8vo, 6s. 
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Within Sound of the Sea. With Frontispiece. Crown 8vo, 6s. 

44 A List of Kegan Paid, Trench & Co.'s Publications. 


Brave Men's Footsteps. A Book of Example and Anecdote for 
Young People. By the Editor of "Men who have .Risen." With 
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COXHEAD, Ethel.— Birds and Babies. With 33 Illustrations. 
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DA VIES, G. Christopher. — Rambles and Adventures of our 
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EDMONDS, Herbert.— W 'ell Spent Lives : a Series of Modern Bio- 
graphies. New and Cheaper Edition. Crown 8vo, 3^. 6d. 

EVANS, Marh.—Tlae Story of our Father's Love, told to Children. 
Sixth and Cheaper Edition of Theology for Children. With 4, 
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MAC KENNA, S. y.— Plucky Fellows. A Book for Boys. With 
6 Illustrations. Fifth Edition. Crown 8vo, 3-r. 6d. 

REANEY, Mrs. G. 6*.— Waking and Working ; or, From Girlhood 
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Blessing and Blessed : a Sketch of Girl Life. New and 
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Rose Gurney's Discovery. A Story for Girls. Dedicated to 
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English Girls : Their Place and Power. With Preface by the 
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STORR, Francis, and TURNER, Halves.— Canterbury Chimes.; 
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STRETTON, Hesba.— David Lloyd's Last Will. With 4 Illustra- 
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WHITAKER, Florence.— Christy's Inheritance. A London Story. 
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